It seems BJP has realised that no political party at this juncture can afford to ignore Dalits and survive the electoral battle. So, in the attempt of appeasement, BJP earlier came adding Ramji to Baba Saheb’s name. The party as of now survived on Lord Rama in Ayodhya and now they have gone one step ahead of renaming Bhimrao Ramrao to Ramji. Since BJP has come to power, many Dalit organisations raised their voices against Dalit atrocities. The SP-BSP alliance and the grand entry of the Congress with Priyanka Gandhi as a campaigner, 2019 seems to be a tough race for the BJP. The changing political scenario has forced the saffron party to woo the Dalits in all possible manners. They already won the Muslim votes (female) in the name of triple talaq.
BJP MP Rajendra Agrawal asserted, “PM Modi has worked for the betterment of everyone be it Muslims, STs, SCs or other castes or religions. Before Modi, they have been used for vote banks for so many years and the Modi-led government has demolished the vote bank politic of this country by bringing Sabka Sath Sabka Vikas into existence. BJP government has done a lot for the lower castes and minorities without any discrimination. We should always avoid violence as it is not good for the harmony of the society. Violence on minorities and lower castes has been decreased under the BJP government.”
The dynamics in rural Dalit politics seems to have moved from challenging the upper castes to finding acceptance and becoming a part of the majoritarian polity that is under construction. The emergent “new” middle classes from among these Dalit families continued to feel the pinch of caste within the anonymity of urban spaces. This political language also provides anonymity and ostensibly side-lines and undermines the language of caste that comes as a relief to the urban Dalit.
To bridge the gap, BJP decided to refer Bhimrao Ambedkar by his full name Bhimrao Ramji Ambedkar in Uttar Pradesh comes with a political pitch to break the ‘Neem-Bhim Ek Saath’ (Muslim-Dalit unity) slogan in the state and align Dalits with its Hindutva agenda in the light of the BSP-SP tie up, party leaders said. The Yogi government has decided to introduce ‘Ramji’ as the middle name of the Father of the Constitution BR Ambedkar in all official correspondence and records, an order that has raised opposition hackles ahead of the 2019 Lok Sabha polls.
Samajwadi Party MP Nagendra Pratap Singh said “Now the people of India know that the BJP is anti-Muslims, Dalits, STs, SCs and backwards. Nothing is going to work in favour of BJP this time. It has deceived the Indians in the last five years. Muslim minority and Dalits have been murdered, lynched and tortured during the Modi-led BJP government. Instead of voting for Modi they will take revenge by throwing him out of the power. As far as BSP-SP alliance is concerned, they are going to form the government in Uttar Pradesh.”
This move hence helps in aligning the Dalit community with BJP agenda, especially with SP and BSP joining forces for 2019. Ambedkar Jayanti will be a very big event in UP this time on April 14 with all the state ministers fanning out to districts for the celebrations.
Dr. Lalji Prasad Nirmal, director of Babasaheb Dr. Bhimrao Ambedkar Mahasabha, said that the campaign had been initiated by Governor Ram Naik (BJP leader from Mumbai) in December 2017, who had written to the Prime Minister, the Chief Minister, and also the Mahasabha, expressing his concerns over the prevalent incorrect spelling of Ambedkar.
Film Producer Vishwajeet Gaikwad told Afternoon Voice, “Ramji was Ambedkar’s father’s name. As per common practice in Maharashtra, father’s name is used as a middle name for sons. The irony of Indian citizens is that such gimmick works; instead of changing spellings, these people should have worked for Ambedkar’s dream for India, put thought on why he put efforts in the Constitution. However, the main point is that the way the name should be pronounced. While its English spelling is correct, the spelling will have to change in Hindi, as will the pronunciation.”
The order soon got mired in political controversy with the opposition Samajwadi Party crying hoarse that the move smacked of politics ahead of the Lok Sabha elections.
“The BJP government is playing politics with the name of the Dalit icon,” said SP leader Anurag Bhadoria. He charged the state government with politicising Ambedkar’s name for attracting Dalit vote bank.
In 2019, it would be interesting to see who saves BJP, Lord Rama or Ramji?