You may find contradictions in the life and works of the personalities but none can deny the contribution of such national or international icons. Barrister Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi who is revered as the Father of the Nation in India used to say that if someone felt contradiction in his opinion or action, the latter be considered as his revised or updated view. Same may be the case with the life and works of Dr. Bhimrao Ambedkar who became darling of all those who cared for social justice and uplift of the depressed classes. He was opposed to the establishment of the Constituent Assembly but he joined it once he was elected to. He preferred upliftment of his depressed society to the political freedom from the British. Barrister Dr. Ambedkar, affectionately known as Babasaheb, was born in a Mahar community on 14 April 1891. Despite facing adversities like untouchability, he could become not only the Member of the Viceroy’s Executive Council in pre-independence era but also was invited to be the first Law Minister of independent India in the Nehru Cabinet.
Bhimarao’s biographer Narendra Jadhav, MP, writes: “In the course of his most eventful life, Dr. Ambedkar made outstanding contribution as an economist, sociologist, anthropologist, educationist, journalist, as an authority on Comparative Religion, as a policy-maker and administrator, and as a parliamentarian, besides being a jurist who became the Principal Architect of the Indian Constitution. In spite of being a statesman and a mass leader, Dr. Ambedkar always remained a reflective thinker and erudite scholar. Even while being fully engrossed in mass movement and political upheavals, he wrote remarkable treatises on Economics, Sociology, Anthropology, Politics, Law, Religion and Culture which is clearly the mark of a true intellectual.”
Dr. Ambedkar had bitter encounters on so many occasions with Mahatma Gandhi and Sardar Patel in the past but both were instrumental in inviting Babasaheb to join the first Union Government as the Law Minister headed by Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru as they thought his talent must be utilized in nation building though he was not a Congressman and was to be the bitter enemy of the Congress in future. In September 1951, Dr. Ambedkar resigned following his differences with PM Nehru basically on the Hindu Code Bill. It would not be out of place to mention here that right from the initial days the President of India Dr. Rajendra Prasad along with two of the Cabinet colleagues Sardar Patel and Dr. Syama Prasad Mookerjee were resisting the draft bill of the Hindu Code Bill calling it an undue interference in the Hindu religion. PM Nehru was solidly in support of the bill drafted by Dr. Ambedkar and was prepared to sacrifice his Premiership. Later, Nehru could not resist the pressure to scuttle getting it approved in the Parliament and had to face the blame for taking U-turn which led to the resignation of Babasaheb from his Cabinet. Dr. B.R. Ambedkar had not wound up his political party i.e. the Scheduled Castes Federation (SCF) even when he joined the Nehru Cabinet in 1947. He had dreamt of the Republican Party in India but could not establish it during his lifetime. In 1942, he had founded the SCF. Hence, he decided to contest the first Parliamentary i.e. Lok Sabha election 1951-52 under the banner of the SCF. He attempted to present his Principles, Policy, Programmes and terms of Co-operation with other political parties in the manifesto of his party in October 1951.
Some of the key points of his vision mentioned in the manifesto are as under: (1) It will treat all Indians not only as being equal before the law but as being entitled to equality and will accordingly foster equality where it does not exist and uphold it where it is denied. (2) It will stand for the Parliamentary System of Government as being the best form of Government both in the interest of public and in the interest of the individual. (3) The policy of the Party is not tied to any particular dogma or ideology such as Communism, or Socialism, Gandhism, or any other ism…Its outlook on life will purely rational and modern, empiricist and not academic. (4)The programme of any Political Party in India must be integrally connected with the legacy left by the British on the credit or debit side must be reckoned. (5) The SCF will fight for the raising of the Backward Classes, the Untouchables and the Tribal people both in the matter of Education and Services. (6) The artificial distinction between higher classes and lower classes based on birth must come to an end soon. (7) The Problem of Poverty be resolved by more production both in Agriculture and in Industry. Rapid industrialization and mechanized Agriculture. (8) Land to landless and the principle of minimum wages. (9) The creation of Linguistic States. (10) Punishing corrupts and tackling inflation. (11) Friendly relations with all the countries and not just playing pro-Mao against anti- Chaing Kai Shek. (12) Kashmir to be partitioned- the Muslim area to go to Pakistan (subject to the wishes of the Kashmiries living in the Valley) and the non-Muslim area consisting of Jammu and Ladakh to come to India. (13) The
SCF will not have any alliance with any reactionary Party such as the Hindu Mahasabha or the RSS. (14) No alliance with a Party like the Communist Party the objects of which are to destroy individual freedom and Parliamentary Democracy and substitute in its place a dictatorship. (15) Reduction of Expenditure over the Army (16) Re-lavy of the Salt tax. (17) Abolition of prohibition and the saving of Excise Revenue (18) Nationalization of Insurance.
While referring to ancient teachers who believed in two-party system of Governance, Babasaheb stressed on the role of the opposition in the Parliamentary democracy: “One important thing in the Parliamentary Democracy is that people should know the other side, if there are two sides to a question.” Even after resigning from the Nehru Cabinet due to differences, Ambedkar continued to propagate his views on the Parliamentary Democracy and follow the cardinal principles in his personal political life too till his death on 6 December 1956. He used to say: “Unfortunately, we have lost all this past heritage that was good. Historians of India must tackle this question as to why these Parliamentary institutions disappeared from our land. But I find that they cannot or do not want to find out the reasons for it. Ancient India was the master of the World. There was such intellectual freedom in ancient India as was nowhere else to be
Next Column: Sardar Patel: A Champion of Hindu-Muslim Unity
(The writer is a Socio-political Historian. E-mail: [email protected] )