I wrote earlier about the possibility of hijacking the name and legacy of Babu Kanshi Ram. I don’t know whether it is good or bad but it is happening gradually. It happened, and rightly so with Dr. B.R. Ambedkar too. Till almost the 1970s, Ambedkar was recognized as the leader of Republican Party and that of some dalit outfits. As the ground realities of the political landscape in India changed, there was no option for the political parties but to own Ambedkar. Now Ambedkar is increasingly occupying the rightful space not only in the political sphere but also in the society at large. It is gratifying to note. Dr. Ambedkar deserved this recognition and honour as the greatest Indian of contemporary times. The events have taken a full circle. Ambedkar’s mission was further carried by Babu Kanshi Ram who was the founder of Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP). As his heir, Mayawati is celebrating her birthday today (January 15) with a huge rally in Lucknow, the mission and agenda and also the name of Babu Kanshi Ram is being owned and hijacked by his erstwhile opponents slowly but steadily. In the run-up to the 2014 elections, the big political parties like the Congress and BJP are vying with each other to grab the name of Babu Kanshi Ram to establish their claim on the dalit votes.
A few months ago, Rahul Gandhi addressing the National Dialogue on Social Disparity organized by the National Commission for Schedule Castes said “It will be our effort to give maximum representation to dalits in the coming elections” and praised Kanshi Ram in the same vein and said that the movement started by him to empower dalits had come to a standstill after his death. Yet at another function recently Rahul Gandhi wooed dalit voters and underlined the need to break free and gain higher ‘escape velocity’. While he was critical of Mayawati, he hailed her mentor Kanshi Ram and said that he provided escape velocity to dalits and many people benefitted from it. Now it was the turn of BJP to follow suit. It has been reported in the media today (Hindustan Times of January 15) that BJP will take out the Sanmaan Yatra to the native place of Babu Kanshi Ram in Bunga (Rupnagar). The posters and hoardings of the Yatra have the photo of Babu Kanshi Ram at the centre of Lotus, the election symbol of BJP. And flanked by the photos of Dr. Ambedkar and Narendra Modi. President of the SC Morcha of BJP Dr. Dilbagh Rai, according to media reports said “Kanshi Ram founded the BSP but he is respected by the entire dalit community. Here lies the importance of Kanshi Ram.
Post Script: Flagging off the ‘Samman Yatra’ on January 15, 2014, Sanjay Paswan, President of BJP’s SC Morch said that Kanshi Ram was a great leader of the community in north India which is why they had organized the ‘Samman Yatra’. He added “If BJP comes to power, we will recommend to bestow the prestigious ‘Bharat Ratna’ award on him just like Dr. Ambedkar. One can see that Kanshi Ram is here to stay.