MUMBAI, June 11, 2011
Pawar cites Ambedkar's ideals, questions Athavale's alliance with Sena-BJP
Nationalist Congress Party president Sharad Pawar (right) with film
editor Tariq Anwar at a rally on the occasion of the party's 12th
anniversary in Mumbai on Friday. Photo: Vivek Bendre
The Hindu Nationalist Congress Party president Sharad Pawar (right)
with film editor Tariq Anwar at a rally on the occasion of the party's
12th anniversary in Mumbai on Friday. Photo: Vivek Bendre
"Incompatible with the thinking of his new-found allies'
Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) president and Union Agriculture
Minister Sharad Pawar on Friday questioned Republican Party of India
(RPI) leader Ramdas Athavale's new-found alliance with the right-wing
Shiv Sena and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), indicating that it was
against the ideals of Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar.
Mr. Athavale, a staunch Ambedkarite who was an ally of the NCP and,
later, the Congress, had switched sides recently, causing much
heartburn among his former allies. Mr. Pawar, speaking on the 12th
foundation day of the NCP at a rain-sodden Somaiya grounds here,
admitted that Mr. Athavale had a right to go where he pleased and that
while he would not criticise him, he was worried about Mr. Athavale's
antecedents as a follower of Dr. Ambedkar and how they were
incompatible with the thinking of his current allies.
Extolling Dr. Ambedkar's towering contribution to the country and his
vision for social equality, Mr. Pawar said that when he accepted
'deeksha' at Nagpur on October 14, 1956, he had listed 22 pledges
which his followers were to respect. Mr. Pawar read out a few of these
pledges: "I shall not consider Brahma, Vishnu and Mahesh as God, nor
shall I worship them. I shall not consider Ram and Krishna as God, nor
shall I worship them…and I will not perform any rituals to be
performed by Brahmins."
How, Mr. Pawar asked, when Mr. Athavale allies with a party whose
leader calls himself a "Hinduhridaysamrat", could the trend of
thinking be compatible with Dr. Ambedkar's pledges? India, he said,
was a land of many communities and religions and there had to be unity
among them. Calling oneself a leader of a single community threatened
the unity of that composite culture, he pointed out.
He who called himself "Hinduhridaysamrat" went against the unity of
religions, he said. Mr. Pawar said the BJP was a party that equated
Hindutva with nationalism or national pride. Again, he pointed out,
one could not identify a single religion with nationalism given that
there were many religions and communities in India. Is Ramdas going to
agree with these ideals, Mr. Pawar asked. If he did, then he was
departing from Dr. Ambedkar's philosophy. By joining up with the
saffron parties, said Mr. Pawar, Mr. Athavale had gone very far from
his avowed ideas.
NCP leaders, including Home Minister R.R. Patil, targeted Sena
executive president Uddhav Thackeray for opposing the renaming of
Dadar station as Chaityabhoomi, among other issues. Mr. Pawar said his
party was not interested in finishing off anyone or disrupting
anything. All the NCP wanted was to provide social justice and
equality to the poor and backward sections.
Following Mr. Athavale's exit as an ally, both the Congress and the
NCP have realised the need to woo the Scheduled Castes and the
backward sections of society. The NCP announced a charter of demands
which, Mr. Pawar said, all the NCP functionaries and workers would
implement. The 12th foundation day of the party was celebrated as
social justice day and a list of 41 demands, which Mr. Pawar described
as "Magna Carta," was released on the occasion. It included the demand
for acquiring 12.5 acres of land from Indu Mills near Chaityabhoomi in
Dadar and constructing a memorial to Dr. Ambedkar there.
Chaityabhoomi, where Dr. Ambedkar was cremated, is held as a sacred
place. The NCP also demanded that the Dadar railway station be renamed
as Chaityabhoomi railway station, setting at rest speculation that it
had struck a compromise with the Sena, which was opposed to the
demand. Street battles had broken out between the NCP and the Sena
over remarks made by Deputy Chief Minister Ajit Pawar on the issue of
renaming the station till Mr. Pawar senior reportedly called up Bal
Thackeray and achieved a truce.
The Congress had written to the Central government 14 months ago,
demanding the renaming of Dadar station as Chaityabhoomi. Chief
Minister Prithviraj Chavan will soon lead a delegation to meet the
Prime Minister and urge him to expedite a decision on the Indu Mills
land so that a memorial to Dr. Ambedkar could be constructed.
The NCP's charter has a strong focus on the scheduled castes and
backward sections and lists various demands and concessions for them.
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