Mahesh Trivedi | India Tomorrow
AHMEDABAD – Gujarat’s five-million-odd Dalits are seriously contemplating giving a thumbs-down to the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in the upcoming elections to the 323 local self-government institutions in Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s saffron-ruled home state.
The socially-disadvantaged Scheduled Caste men and women are seething with anger after the Vijay Rupani administration’s recent flat-out refusal to include the name of the late Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar in its list of national leaders.
The General Administration Department (GAD) headed by the Chief Minister has just written a letter to Dalit Adhikar Manch convener Kirit Rathod informing him that his request to recognise the chief architect of India’s Constitution as a national leader has been rejected as the state government has decided to maintain the status quo.
Boiling with rage, Rathod, who has made countless representations for over a year, on Friday sent out appeals to thousands of dyed-in-the-wool Manch faithfuls throughout the state to boycott BJP when six municipal corporations, 55 municipalities, 31 district panchayats and 231 taluka panchayats go to polls later this month.
He has been going round government offices, including educational institutions, police department, administrative blocks, etc. to persuade the decision-makers for paying tribute to Dr Ambedkar by at least hanging his photo frame along with those of other national leaders—Mahatma Gandhi, Jawaharlal Nehru, Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel, Pandit Dendayal Upadhyay and Shyamaparasad Mukherjee.
With elections being held in two phases on February 21 and 28, Rathod told indiatomorrow.net that Dalit leaders from all over Gujarat would meet in Vadodara next week and resolve to give a fitting reply in elections to BJP and the Rupani regime which, he said, had insulted Bharat Ratna Dr Ambedkar who had drafted the country’s Constitution, the world’s longest-written, 146,385-word statute.
“The Gujarat government has insulted Babasaheb by not even ordering its various departments to put up his portrait or statue on their premises. It is so shameful that people of the marginalised community have to agitate to demand respect for the Father of the Constitution,” said the Dalit leader and wondered whether the raw deal was being meted out to the Messiah of the Untouchables just because he was a Dalit.
While senior Congress leader Arjun Modhwadia told indiatomorrow.net that BJP always treated Dalits as second-class citizens and would never promote Dr Ambedkar’s ideology, popular legislator Naushad Solanki said the saffron regime had an anti-poor and anti-Dalit mentality with no respect for either Dr Ambedkar or the unique Constitution he gifted to India.
What has sent shockwaves among Dalits is the fact that several lawmakers representing India’s lowest caste had also dashed off letters to the Chief Minister to recognise the great constitutionalist and champion of the downtrodden as a national leader but in vain.
Indeed, following Rathod’s strongly-worded complaint, the National Commission for Scheduled Castes had also on December 15 last shot off a notice to the Gujarat government and sought its reply by January 15, 2021 on why Dr Ambedkar’s name was missing from its list of national leaders.
Rathod’s marathon efforts since January 23 last year to fight injustice done to the crusader of human rights who was also known as a symbol of knowledge did pay dividends in August last when at least the Ahmedabad district education officer ordered the 1,500-odd government schools to display Dr Ambedkar’s images along with those of Gandhi and Patel.
But with most government offices not having even a single photograph of the social reformer who had campaigned against social discrimination and is also credited with bringing about major labour reforms, even the Governor, in May last, sent a letter about this to GAD.
With upper-caste departmental heads turning a deaf ear to even Governor’s advice on Dr Ambedkar’s portrait, Rathod continued his drive till, on November 21 last, GAD, instead of taking action on his gravamen, dropped a bombshell on him with a letter citing a 1996 government resolution about the approved list of national leaders who did not include the champion of the downtrodden.
Last week, Rupani-led GAD again shellshocked Rathod with a letter about the state administration junking his plea to honour Dr Ambedkar as a national leader, leaving him ranting and raving, and the underprivileged community flustered and frustrated.
“The BJP government has rejected Dalits’ plea to honour their messiah. Now in upcoming polls, it will be our turn to snub the saffron party,” said an enraged Rathod.