With polls in sight, BJP-BSP spat on Ambedkar’s legacy gets shriller (News Analysis)

Lucknow, March 28 (IANS) B.R. Ambedkar, the architect of the Indian Constitution and a Dalit icon, is the new flashpoint between the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) in Uttar Pradesh as the state gets battle-ready for assembly polls early next year.

In the past few weeks, while the BJP has reignited its efforts to woo the Dalits by Ambedkar-talk, the BSP has been reacting point-to-point on everything being done by the saffron fold with regard to the Dalits. Party supremo Mayawati, in a statement issued on Friday, accused the BJP, along with its ideologue parent RSS, of pursuing an agenda to finish reservations in government jobs for the Dalits.

She went on to forewarn people in Uttar Pradesh and Punjab (also headed for early 2017 polls) that they should watch out for a “larger game plan” of the BJP to “confuse them” by announcing schemes in the name of Ambedkar.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s recent assertion that great men like Baba Saheb cannot belong to one caste and that he was a national figure, sources say, has rattled Mayawati who thinks that the statement was “laced with a potentially large game plan of the BJP”.

The BJP, which succeeded in weaning away the once “captive vote bank of the BSP” in the Lok Sabha, so much so that it drew a blank, is learnt to be in a “pro-active mode” to woo the Dalits, as it makes a feverish pitch for power in Uttar Pradesh, where it has been out of power for more than a decade.

Reacting sharply to Mayawati’s statement on Friday that the RSS and the BJP were out to finish reservations in government jobs, state spokesman Vijay Bahadur Pathak pointed out that Modi has put to rest such speculation and that Mayawati should realize that she was flogging a dead horse.

He also questioned Mayawati’s motive in pursuing this “false agenda” and alleged that the BSP supremo was rattled at the work being done for Dalits by the BJP-led national Democratic Alliance (NDA) government at the centre.

“She has been attacking us by saying we do not follow Ambedkar. Does she think she is the lone torch bearer of the Dalit icons legacy” the BJP leader questioned.

BSP leader Swamy Prasad Maurya countered this and said that the BJP’s love for Ambedkar was not only fake but also aimed at befooling Baba Saheb’s followers.

In sync with the party’s aggressive posturing viz-a-viz Mayawati, the BJP government at the centre is learnt to be planning to promote five places connected to Ambedkar as ‘Panch teerth’ (five pilgrimages).

The BJP has also planned a string of high-decibel events at the 125th birth anniversary year of Ambedkar, and will celebrate April 14 as ‘Samajik Samrasta Diwas’.

The five places to be developed as ‘pilgrimage points’ include the birth place of Ambedkar, his residence during his higher education at London, study place in Nagpur, Chaitya Bhoomi at Dadar chaupati in Mumbai and Mahaparinirvan sthali in New Delhi.

And so, it is sure that as the assembly elections in the state draw closer, the BSP-BJP spat over Ambedkar’s legacy is set to get shriller by every passing day.

(Mohit Dubey can be contacted at mohit.d@ians.in)

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