With the changing political scenario just before the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, it comes across as Bharatiya Janata Party has now gotten a picture that no political party can afford to ignore Dalits and sustain at this juncture. Until now, the party managed to survive in the name of Lord Rama, but this time around BJP left no stones unturned to woo not only the Dalits in Uttar Pradesh but also across the nation with annexing Bhimrao Ambedkar’s fathers name “Ramji” as his middle name. Is BJP here trying to attract the immense vote bank by targeting Dalit’s sentiments for their benefits in the upcoming 2019 elections?
After the governor Ram Naik in 2017 wrote to the Prime Minister, the Chief Minister and also the Mahasabha, expressing his concern over Ambedkar’s name spelled incorrectly, the Uttar Pradesh government passed an order on March 28, to officially change the name of Dr Bhimrao Ambedkar to Dr Bhimrao Ramji Ambedkar in all official correspondence and records. This move has raised opposition hackles ahead of the 2019 Lok Sabha polls. As, in Uttar Pradesh it seems as 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 light of the BSP-SP tie up.
Congress leader Hussain Dalwai said, “Due to the miserable defeat in UP by-poll election, BJP is doing vote bank politics and misguiding Dalits. Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar was also against Manusmruti, and BJP and RSS are the supporters of Manusmruti. In order to attract Dalits votes for their political agenda, they are adding Ambedkar’s father name Ramji. But Dalits will not be misguided by BJP’s agenda.”
Considering the recent happenings, Ambedkar Jayanti will be a huge event this time in UP on April 14 with all the state ministers fanning out to districts for the celebrations. The dynamics of Dalit politics appear to have moved from challenging the upper castes to finding acceptance and becoming a part of the majoritarian politics that is under construction.
Shiv Sena spokesperson Manisha Kayande expressed, “Firstly, the name of Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar is itself great. Also, everyone respects him and he is considered as an Indian legend and Vishwa Ratna as well. BJP is trying to get a political mileage by shifting the focus from the main issues. But people are not fool. Basically, this is a new strategy for a mass appeal due to their defeat in the UP by-polls.”
Film producer Vishwajit Gaikwad told AV, “Ramji was Ambedkar’s father’s name. As per common practice in Maharashtra, father’s name is used as a middle name for sons. Irony of Indian citizens is that such gimmick works, instead of changing spellings, these people should have worked for Ambedkar’s dream for India and get thoughts on why he put efforts in the Constitution.”
Principal Secretary of UP’s general administration department, Jitendra Kumar issued a circular in this regard on Tuesday to all the departments and registrars of Allahabad and Lucknow benches of the high court. In another order issued on Thursday, the government made it compulsory for all its offices to put up Ambedkar’s photographs displaying his full name from April 1.
The order soon got mired in a political controversy with the Samajwadi Party crying hoarse that the move smacked politics ahead of the 2019 elections. SP leader Anuraj Bhadoria also said that the BJP government is playing politics in the name of the Dalit icon. He charged the state government for politicising Ambedkar’s name to attract Dalit vote bank.
NCP Leader Sachin Ahir commented, “It is a vote bank politics and they are trying to misguide people by making emotional appeals. Initially, BJP had asked for votes in the name of development and they failed to fulfill their promises. Adding the name of Ambedkar’s father is a new BJP-tactic.”
“If they are doing with purpose to show him respect, then it is a good initiative; but the question arises, why did they wake up so late and why not earlier? They are playing with Dalit community’s emotion for the Lok sabha elections. I believe, Ambedkar followers will not believe in these political agendas and will not vote to BJP in 2019,” he added.
So far, the BJP government has failed to accomplish the promises made by them. In this case, BJP isn’t trying to follow Babasaheb Ambedkar’s ideology but instead they are just focusing on changing his name. In 2019, it would be interesting to see who saves BJP, Lord Rama or Ramji!
BJP spokesperson Madhav Bhandari expressed, “Every time opposition alleges BJP for any political purpose, it’s because of their frustration. There is no point in bringing up politics in this issue as the initiative has good intensions.”