In the backdrop of caste-based agitations across the state, councillors of Karjan municipality in Vadodara district have set aside their political differences to come together to install a bust of Dr B R Ambedkar in two predominantly Dalit wards. Karjan municipality, which goes to polls in February, is led by the BJP. However, a grant of approximately Rs 3 lakh was cleared to install a bronze bust of Ambedkar in the wards dominated by the Scheduled Castes (SC), where both the BJP and Congress have their candidates.
The bust, commissioned by three-term Karjan BJP councillor Devendra Chauhan, is three-foot long and sculpted out of bronze. The bust, which weighs about 115 kg, was sculpted by Ashok Ajmeri in Vadodara over a period of two months. According to Chauhan, the idea behind the installation of the Ambedkar statue was to give “something in return” to the Dalit voter base in Karjan.
Chauhan said, “I have been a councillor for three terms. My ward is number 6, which will now become Ward number 4 in the upcoming election. It has about 4,000 Dalit voters, who have always supported me and ensured my victory. Currently, the statue of Ambedkar in Karjan town is located in the Naya Bazaar area, which is about six kilometers from Juna Bazaar, where mostly Dalits live. So, in the last session of the municipality, I put forth a proposal to allot Rs 3 lakh from the Scheduled Caste grant to install a statue of Dr Ambedkar in Juna Bazaar area so that the Dalits can have a statue of their leader.”
Chauhan’s proposal was supported by the local Congress councillors. Bhupendra Parmar, a two-term councillor from Ward 5 says that installing Ambedkar’s statue in the area was the “nicest way” to use the grant. Parmar said, “It is true that we had no debate over the issue of installation of Ambedkar’s statue. Dalits deserve to have a statue of their leader in their own area. So, when the proposal came to use the Rs 3 lakh SC grant for this purpose, we supported the resolution.” The current Ward 5, from where Parmar is a councillor, has a Congress panel of three councillors. Chauhan’s Ward 6 has two Independent councillors besides him.
However, the councillors are racing against time to have the installation completed before the State Election Commission (SEC) notifies the elections for the municipalities. While the order of the statue was commissioned about two months ago, ahead of Assembly polls in the state, the work on the construction of the base platform in Karjan for the installation is not complete.
“We are trying our best to install the statue ahead of the civic polls here. In case, we are unable to complete the installation, we will complete it after the elections,” Chauhan said.