Updated: November 26, 2015 7:07:02 pm
The marking of November 26 as ‘Constitution Day’ is significant: It presents the BJP with an opportunity to try and use a powerful symbol to establish control over parts of the narrative of the creation of a modern and independent India.
By talking of Constitution Day, the ruling BJP hopes it will allow them to state, without saying so, that the makers of modern India should be separated gently from the first Prime Minister, Jawaharlal Nehru, whose 125th birth anniversary too concluded earlier this month, but he went largely unsung by the government. By speaking of the Constitution and only Ambedkar in that context, an attempt is made to distance Nehru further.
Symbolically appropriating dates and personalities at the forefront of the fight to liberate India from colonial rule, has been happening for some time now. Sardar Patel, the Iron Man of India is a favorite of the BJP and there have been attempts to appropriate even Bhagat Singh, — a Lenin-admirer and atheist revolutionary as an inspiration for the Sangh.
Recently, there was the re-branding of Teacher’s Day as an occasion for the PM to interact with children; for Swachhta Diwas, the government used Mahatma Gandhi on his birthday as the symbol of its cleanliness initiative– analysts says that this represented attempts to use Gandhi’s emphasis on cleanliness and take away from the politics if his cleanliness symbols.
Now, to commemorate the Constitution on November 26 rather than January 26 — the day chosen for pronouncing India a Republic– is also being interpreted as a way of getting the PM to have the last word as he is set to speak last. January 26 has historical significance: the Congress’ Poorna Swaraj resolution declared January 26, 1930 as Poorna Swaraj Day. The BJP may have thought that creating ‘other’ days to celebrate the Constitution, would be another attempt at Congress-mukti.
Celebrating BR Ambedkar comes in the aftermath of the Bihar assembly elections where the RSS’ chief’s controversial desire to review the reservation policy came under fire – and has been cited as one of the reasons for the BJP’s loss.
However Ambedkar poses certain difficulties for the BJP. In his lifetime, Ambedkar was a consistent and bitter opponent of the Brahminical order. He made demands for special attention to Dalits and backed separate electorates for them. Alongwith renouncing Hinduism, and converting to Buddhism, he opposed the RSS idea of ‘uniting’ Hindus in a Brahminical framework.
A hint of the contradiction came to light when Home Minister Rajnath Singh spoke in the Lok Sabha today; “He (Ambedkar) also believed in eradicating untouchability to bring equality in society. Sometimes people try to use it for political benefits for example the issue of reservation. Dr. Ambedkar introduced the concept of reservation for equality, he said it’s a socio-political necessity.”
Babasaheb’s ‘Ambedkarite’ politics has emerged as a force to reckon with in states like UP, Maharashtra and Punjab, even if not appearing to be electorally significant immediately – so the BJP is making efforts to appeal to that social base.
The monsoon session of Parliament was washed out. By beginning the winter session with a two-day tribute to Babasaheb gives the government an opportunity to strike the right note of ‘statesmanship’ – and force the opposition to rally around.
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