On the eve of Bihar Assembly polls, Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Sunday broke his silence on the reservation row, saying that his government is committed to the reservation policy.
The controversy had erupted after RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat, in an interview to the outfit’s mouthpiece Organiser, called for a review of the quota policy.
“My government is committed to the Indian Constitution including the reservation policies which Dr Ambedkar evolved for the emancipation of the socially oppressed and suppressed sections of society,” he said after laying the foundation stone for an Ambedkar memorial at the Indu Mills compound in Mumbai, “With a BJP government in power and polls getting under way, a malicious propaganda is being spread that the government is against reservation.
This is not politics and the falsehood must stop,” he said, adding that similar “falsehood” was spread when the Atal Bihari Vajpayee government was in power.
The PM claimed that the development of Dalits was much better in BJP-ruled states. He assured that his government would showcase Ambedkar’s life and teachings on the global platform.
“I feel extremely anguished when I see that Ambedkar has been confined to being a Dalit leader. Why have we not put him on par with Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther,” he added.
“It is a pleasant coincidence that today, I had the opportunity to perform the bhoomi pujan for Ambedkar memorial at Indu Mills. It also happens to be the birth anniversary of Jayaprakash Narayan whose revolt against Emergency was a tribute to Ambedkar, the architect of the Indian Constitution.” he said.
Modi drove straight to the Chaityabhoomi at Shivaji Park after arriving in Mumbai to pay tribute to Ambedkar. He is the first serving PM to visit Chaityabhoomi. Then he reached the adjoining Indu Mills compound where he laid the foundation stone in the presence of Dalit leaders. Following a presentation on the project, he also made suggestions relating to the proposed memorial.
While the Shiv Sena boycotted Modi’s rally at Bandra Kurla Complex, smaller parties, other BJP allies and Dalit outfits attended the foundation stone laying ceremony as well as the rally.
While the PM did not mention Sena, he said it was heartening to see all Dalit leaders work for the Ambedkar memorial. “After all, the relentless work of Ambedkar was aimed at the unity of organisation, social justice and equality,” he said, adding “the memorial should be of world class and state-of-art.”
Modi also promised to transform five places where Dr B R Ambedkar lived and worked into pilgrimage centres called “pancha tirtha”. The five centres include Alipore Road House in Delhi where Ambedkar lived, the Mau house in MP, the village in Ratnagiri where Ambedkar’s parents lived, Indu Mills and the bungalow in London, where he stayed as a student.
Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis announced on Sunday that his government will withdraw all the criminal cases that were registered against Dalits who had agitated for building the Ambedkar memorial at Indu Mills compound over the last 15 years. “All those who took to the streets to see the grand memorial of Ambedkar should be thanked for their contribution,” he said. ENS