Some now put Bhole Baba over Babasaheb, says Modi
NEW DELHI: Prime Minister Narendra Modi poked fun at Congress heir imminent Rahul Gandhi by saying that he was remembering "Bhole baba" more than "Babasaheb" (Ambedkar) these days, continuing the exchange of barbs with the Congress vice-president in the run-up to the Gujarat election campaign on Thursday.
Inaugurating Dr Ambedkar International Centre here, Modi said his government laid the foundation for the building in 2015 and completed it before the deadline though the project had remained a non-starter since it was conceived in 1992. "The political parties which seek votes in the name of Ambedkar may not even be aware of it. But these days, they (remember) Baba Bhole more than Babasaheb. Chalo, itna hi sahi," he said in his public address after unveiling the DAIC.
Though he did not name anyone, the comment was clearly aimed at Rahul Gandhi who recently said on the Gujarat campaign trail that his family were "believers in Lord Shiva". Rahul's rare public remark about his religious beliefs followed claims that he had signed a register meant for "non Hindus" during his visit to Somnath temple. Rahul later accused BJP of masterminding the row.
In the same vein, PM Modi accused Congress of undermining Ambedkar's role in freedom struggle for the benefit of "one family". "For many years after Ambedkar's demise, his thoughts were sought to be suppressed. His role in nation-building was sought to be erased. But thanks to Ambedkar's strength, his thoughts could not be removed from the minds of the people. It would not be wrong if I say the family for which all this was done... more people are influenced by Ambedkar than that family," he said.
The barely veiled attacks on the Gandhi family and Congress at the DAIC bared the PM's bid to woo the vast Dalit community for whom Ambedkar is the mascot. Prefacing the jibe at Congress by "the parties which seek votes in the name of Ambedkar" appeared to concede that Dalits have been a traditional support base of the political rival.
While painting Congress as antagonistic to Ambedkar fits into Modi's national strategy, the attacks on Thursday appeared designed for his home state of Gujarat where election campaign is in its last stages. BJP has faced attacks from Dalit rights activists after the Una floggings and a young Dalit leader Jignesh Mevani has thrown his lot with Congress.
Modi expressed hope that DAIC will serve as an inspiration in spreading the teachings of Ambedkar and become a centre for research on social and economic issues. He said he was hopeful about the eradication of the social evil of casteism because of the zeal of the young generation. He said his government was committed to spreading the thoughts of Ambedkar by developing "panchteerth" — projects linked to Ambedkar in DAIC, Nagpur, Mhow, Delhi's Alipur Road and London. He named a "sixth pilgrimage" in the form of BHIM APP.
Follow Us on TwitterDELHI: Prime Minister Narendra Modi poked Congress heir imminent Rahul Gandhi saying that remembering Bhole baba more than Babasaheb (Ambedkar) these days continuing exchange barbs with Congress vice-president