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Why Modi is so desperate to own the Constitution, and Ambedkar
PANINI ANAND @paninianand |28 November 2015
Modi in House
Modi presented a softer side in Lok Sabha on Friday
Some called it a positive gesture, some called out the bluff
Calling the bluff
Modi's agenda: claim Ambedkar, blame Opposition and change Constitution
Opposition leaders Yechury, Azad, Sharad Yadav sent heavy stinkers
More in the story
Why is Modi not believable
What is the real RSS agenda
Poitical opportunism is like the colour of the sky: it changes
according to the time of the day, the season and other factors.
On Friday, 27 November, Prime Minister Narendra Modi was in an unusual
avatar: he praised BR Ambedkar, quoting him on he and his ideology
He was speaking in Parliament, at the two-day special sitting that
started 26 November, designated by the Modi government as Constitution
Day. The session to discuss commitment to the Constitution was part of
the 125th birth anniversary celebrations of Ambedkar.
There are opposing interpretations of what Modi and others in his
government said at the session. Some think it is an inclusive gesture
and should be taken positively. Others disagree.
Opposition leaders see a conspiracy in the softness, in the
pro-Ambedkar attitude of the government.
They see an attempt by the Bharatiya Janata Party to give itself a
role in the movement for independence; an attempt to claim Ambedkar
and his legacy and to provoke arguments around key elements of the
Constitution, igniting a public debate, pushing for amendments,
What did Modi say
Modi on Friday was soft and humble in the House. Unlike the Modi that
Parliament and people have seen since May 2014.
He was trying to be more friendly with the Opposition, which has
hardly let Parliament function in the Monsoon session. Most Bills
proposed by the government are pending. Especially, the Rajya Sabha
has repeatedly snubbed the arrogance and exclusiveness of the Treasury
Benches, who is in a minority there.
Read- Tactical change: the PM is more parliamentarian than ever before
But Modi had a more pressing need: to claim Ambedkar. He painted his
speech with colours that would assimilate in the portrait of the
leader who visioned the Constitution. The PM talked about diversity
and its beauty, saying one can't ignore the role of the leaders who
contributed to the making of the Constitution.
Also watch: PM Modi's remarks on commitment to India's Constitution
"Mujhe kshama karein, mein kisi ki alochana nahi kar raha. Lekin agar
Babasaheb nahi hote, to Samvidhan ek mahaan samajik dastavej banne se
chook jata. Yeh unka dard, unki peeda thi jiski wajah se yeh samvidhan
bana," Modi said.
(Excuse me, I am not criticising anybody. But, without Babasaheb
(Ambedkar), the Constitution wouldn't have been this great social
document. It was his pain, his plight, which made the Constitution.)
Modi praised Ambedkar - the "dalit maa ka beta" (the son of a Dalit
mother) - and quoted a Sanskrit shloka to describe him. There was no
response when he read it; the hindi translation earned some claps.
"If someone even thinks about changing the constitution, he is
actually attempting suicide," he said. "A majority doesn't mean
anything could be imposed on people."
And Modi brought in references: From Vajpayee to his own speeches to
social reformers such as Raja Ram Mohan Roy, Ishwarchandra Bidyasagar
(calling him Vidyasagar Rao) and others.
The efforts were to showcase a more inclusive, tolerant and liberal
PM. To claim Ambedkar and be in his shoes.
Why is Modi doing this
"In 2009, we celebrated 60 years of Constitution in Gujarat. We placed
a big copy of the Constitution on an elephant," Modi said. This is not
the first time Modi and the school of thought he follows has tried to
There have been several attempts. Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS)
has claimed several times that Ambedkar was happy with the
Ambedkar, in fact, fought his entire life against the core merits of
Hinduism. In the end he accepted Buddhism along with his supporters.
The mantra of Madhukar 'Balasaheb' Deoras was social engineering,
focused on looping in more and more people. This was not possible
without bringing in the majority castes, which are Dalits and
This is the reason why Vallabhbhai Patel, who banned the RSS after
Gandhi's assassination, is now part of the RSS-BJP pantheon. The Sangh
Parivar now uses Patel on its prime posters to gain wider
acceptability. Not to forget, the giant statue of his that Modi has
Of late, RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat has released several books where
writers from the Sangh stable have tried to re-write the Ambedkar
story in a light favouring their ideology. Expect more books on
Ambedkar and Gandhi, sources in the organisation said. Such efforts
have been accelerated in the Modi regime.
From Uttar Pradesh to Punjab and in many other states, Ambedkar could
give the BJP passage to Dalit votes.
What exposes Modi and the government
"It is an attempt (NDA's) to worm into the national movement where you
have no role," said Sitaram Yechury, who represents Communist Party of
India (Marxist) in the Upper House.
He and the leader of Opposition Ghulam Nabi Azad told the House that
the notification for the celebration was issued by the Ministry for
Social Justice on 19 November. "This is technically not possible as it
has to be done by the Home Ministry," said Azad.
Also watch: Sitaram Yechury's comments on commitment to India's constitution
They also produced orders issued by the education ministry on 10
November - a full nine days before the notification was issued -
regarding the celebration. "How come the orders came before the
notification. This is illegal and wrong way of doing things," the
Congress leader added.
Both Yechury and Azad pointed out that Ambedkar himself had said the
Constitution would be fully adopted on 26 January. That's the day
India celebrates Republic Day. Then why does the BJP wants to rewrite
"It is an event. You know event management and through it you want to
claim the space in the history where you didn't contribute," Yechury
Watch more: Gulam Nabi Azad's comments on the discussion on commitment
to India's constitution
The Opposition has reasons to doubt Modi and his government. The
opening speeches by Rajnath Singh in Lok Sabha and Arun Jaitley in
Rajya Sabha focused on the larger agenda of claiming Ambedkar and at
the same time, provoking a debate around the main elements of the
Ambedkar had not put the word 'secularism' in Constitution and now it
is the most misused word in India, Singh said. Jaitley talked about
clauses about equality and uniformity, elaborating how the period of
Emergency was biggest setback to the Constitution.
Also watch: Arun Jaitley initiating the discussion on commitment to
Yechury called it a pick-and-choose tactic, accusing the government
for playing with clauses of its choice according to convenience. Azad
called it divide-and-rule while Janata Dal (United)'s Sharad Yadav
said the country still awaits implementation of social justice and
dignity to the poor and marginalised, who form the majority.
Actually, speeches by BJP leaders had four key objectives:
blame the Opposition
attempt a cocktail of Ambedkar and their ideology
open a passage to debate and amend/change the Constitution.
Modi's Idea of India and contradiction
The PM ended his speech by slogans: "The government has only one
religion - India First. The government has only one holy book - the
Constitution" and so on.
The problem with his speech and his 'idea of India' is rooted in his
personality, his party and its ideology.
modi hijacks ambedkar embed
Architects of communal violence have found place in his government. He
has preferred criminals and the corrupt over clean and committed
people. The PM is hardly democratic and not at all inclusive in his
style of governance.
The hate speeches in the Bihar election campaign and incidents such as
the ones in Dadri and Faridabad are completely opposite to what Modi
said in the House on Friday.
Ambedkar's idea about economic policies, foreign policy, federalism,
home affairs and the commitment to social inclusiveness are elements
missing from Modi's actions.
The way the minorities, the marginalised, academicians and the people
of arts, literature and sciences are suffering in this regime is
completely against Ambedkar's vision and idea. The problem of Modi is
that he can't control the core organisations of the ideology.
The pledge for Ram Mandir and commitment to the Constitution is like
mixing oil with water. It can't work. That's the fabric of the country
and Modi can't change it.
A senior parliamentarian warned: "Don't get confused with the makeup.
It won't last."