October 11, 2015 1:08:54 am
Lauding the BJP for moving fast on the issue of building a grand memorial of Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar at Indu Mills compound, Republican Party of India (RPI) president Ramdas Athavale said the former Congress-NCP government had not displayed any political will to build it.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis got the memorial moving in less than a year of coming in power, said Athavale ahead of Sunday’s bhoomi pujan for the memorial.Athavale said, “The Congress, which enjoyed loyalty of Dalits, has given secondary treatment to Ambedkar, whether it is the issue of a memorial at Indu Mills in Mumbai or a portrait at Central Hall of Indian Parliament.”
The RPI, which played an important role in pushing Ambedkar memorial through agitations in 2011-12 had forcibly taken charge of the Indu Mills compound. Athavale said, “The issue of Ambedkar memorial was first raised by Vijay Kamble in early 2000. However, it became a movement only after RPI activists took to streets.”
Despite assurances from former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and the initiative of NCP president Sharad Pawar who convened a meeting with the then textile minister Anand Sharma, the project remained on the backburner.
According to Athavale, “Congress always treated the Dalits as vote bank.”
The RPI leader said, “Even at the Central Hall of Parliament, there were portraits of national leaders except Babasaheb Ambedkar. It was in 1990 that the then Prime Minister V P Singh got the portrait of Ambedkar at the Central Hall.” Even Bharat Ratna was awarded to Ambedkar much later.
Maintaining that the RPI has retained its identity despite being in alliance with NDA, Athavale said, “I am not questioning the credentials of Congress secularism. But the larger question is, have they lived up to it when it came to treatment to Dalits? Can we forget the atrocities against Dalits in 1993-94 during the renaming of Marathwada University after Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar at Aurangabad. Then, the Congress was a powerful ruling party. It held power in every village and district. Whether elected members were from Parliament, legislatures or gram panchayats, Congress controlled all.”
Commenting on shifting of the RPI allegiance from Congress-NCP to Shiv Sena and BJP, he said, “The RPI will never compromise on inclusive politics.” On whether Bhim Shakti is aligning with Sangh Shakti, he said, “Ours is a political alliance with BJP. We have reservations over certain issues of RSS. What do they mean by Hindurashtra? It is not acceptable, as we are guided by Ambedkar’s Indian Constitution.”
Reacting to RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat’s call for a review on reservation, he said, “I believe it was in context with Hardik Patel’s demand for quota
for Patels. I believe quota for SC/STs and OBCs should not be compromised. But there should be a committee to consider 15 to 20 per cent reservation
for upper castes on economic backward criteria. We have to end the debate between ‘us’ and ‘them’.”
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