interview-babasahbs-visionThis year is quite special in that it marks the 125th birth anniversary of  Dr Bhim Rao Ambedkar, the great social reformer and the principal architect of  the Constitution of  India, who also went on to become the country’s first law minister. The United Nations, for the first time, celebrated his birth anniversary in recognition of  his ideas to uplift the marginalised and oppressed people around the world. However, of  late, India has also witnessed some ugly controversies in the name of  Babasaheb, as he was popularly known, in its political atmosphere. To discuss issues related to Ambedkar’s ideology and their implication in today’s politics, Ramesh Kumar Raja talked to Dr Udit Raj, the BJP MP in Lok Sabha from the North-west Delhi constituency. A former IRS officer and JNU alumni, Raj is also the national chairman of  the All India Confederation of  SC/ST Organizations. Like Ambedkar, Raj, a Dalit leader, too embraced Buddhism.

Edited excerpts:

The name of Babasaheb Bhimrao Ambedkar is suddenly in news for the couple of months. Every political party, including the BJP, is trying to cash in on his name to woo dalit votes. How do you look at this episode?

Babasaheb gained weightage and popularity from the people who benefited from his ideology and because of his struggles for the larger interest of the nation. A large number of people idolised him, became his followers and created a ground for him, which is very important for a democracy. We must thank our Prime Minister Narendra Modi for glorifying his image – which had been missing for years – by bringing to fore Ambedkar’s ideology and vision for the nation.

Why it is so that some political parties exploit Dr Ambedkar’s name as their personal property but doing nothing for downtrodden people and dalits whom he wanted to uplift?

It is sad that some parties misuse his name for their vested political interest. They must take a note of the fact that Babasaheb envisioned a casteless society which is far from becoming a reality. It’s because of his casteless approach that Ambedkar embraced Buddhism as his way of life on 14 th  October 1956 and encouraged others, especially dalits, to do the same. It’s sad that a number of people take pride in calling themselves Ambedkarite, but in real sense they are obsessed with their castes and do not hesitate in using it for their political gains. In Dalit itself, there are a number of castes. If one is a true Ambedkarite and believes in his principle, he or she must do away with the caste system.

There is a difference between your opinion and a big section of politicians? How do you distinguish yourself from them?

Let me tell you very honestly that our organisation does not believe in the concept of caste system. There is not even an iota of caste-based discrimination here. We believe that it is not in the hand of a person to born to a particular caste, but it is definitely in his hands when he matures, to do away with the caste system. If you wish to examine the caste mentality of a person, just check the list of his employees or friends – you will find how one is caste obsessed.

The manner in  which politically and economically influential Patidars in Gujarat and Jats in Haryana are demanding reservation  has been questioned.  Being a social justice campaigner, don’t you think it’s high time to revisit the provisions of caste-based reservation in India?

It is unfortunate and it is necessary to make them understand that the concept of reservation is not a means to alleviate poverty. Had it been a method of poverty alleviation, dalits would have been benefited the most, they would have been well-off. One must take a note of the fact that reservation is a matter of representation and their representation is already very high in their respective states.

interview-babasahbs-vision2Over the years, Dr Ambedkar’s vision for India seems to have been compromised, if you look at imposition of Article 370 on Kashmir. Similarly, he supported  uniform civil code in  India. Do you agree with this?

Dr Ambedkar did not favour a special status for Kashmir just because it was a border state, holding that even Punjab, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and the northeastern states were border states.  So, the then Prime Minister,  Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru got N. Gopalaswami Iyyangar to draft  Article 370 that grants special status  to Jammu and Kashmir. He supported  a uniform civil code irrespective  of religion. Since we were not that  mature a democracy in those days  and there was not enough education,  this vision was postponed by putting it under the Directive Principle of State Policy.

How do you look at your political transformation from a civil servant and social activist?

My only objective in life is to raise the voice of downtrodden people from a street to a bigger platform. Currently, I am doing the same as a lawmaker in the Parliament.

How do you rate PM Modi’s style of governance?

We must appreciate our Prime Minister for taking revolutionary stand on many issues which no one dared to do in the past. However, it all depends on the support of people and the press to acknowledge the initiatives of the government.