In the midst of Karnataka Assembly elections,We the People celebrate Ambedkar Jayanthi, his 132nd birth anniversary,on April 14, 2023. Remember,in 1952, Congress defeated BR Ambedkar from Bombay and again in 1954 by-elections from Bhandara. Nehru actively campaigned against him.It was Jan Sangh founder Shyama Prasad Mukherjee, who got Ambedkar to Rajya Sabha. Let Karnataka remember that we defeated one of the greatest sons of India who gave us the Constitution,under which we get to vote.
Dr. Bhimrao Ramji Ambedkar was born on April 14, 1891 and lived till Dec 6,1956. He was educated at Elphinstone College, Mumbai; Columbia University, USA; and London School of Economics. He was the first Indian to pursue a doctorate in economics abroad. Above all else, a la James Madison, a founder in US, Babasaheb is called as Father of our Constitution.
Ambedkar was actually sent by Bengal to espouse Dalit cause in the Constituent Assembly. Mahatma Gandhi persuaded Jawaharlal Nehru and Sardar Vallabhai Patel to accept Babasaheb as the Chairman of the Drafting Committee. It was a political decision.Yes, there was symbolism to pick someone from the oppressed classes. But, he turned out to be a master stroke, as Ambedkar said, “ I never ever imagined I would be asked to be in the Drafting Committee leave alone being asked to head it and the Constituent Assembly. It was an unexpected privilege that came my way and my conscience tells me that I did a fair job of it”.
What a leader he proved to be in the Assembly, which began at 11 AM on 9 December 1946,with 211 members attending and 284 members signing the draft constitution, on 26 November 1949. Can anyone forget the peroration of Dr. B R Ambedkar on 25th Nov,1949. He was his brilliant self. Generous to a fault in paying tribute to Alladi Krishnaswami Aiyar as ‘more competent than me’.
Babasaheb was brutally candid, which he always was. He did not mince words. He told the assembled giants and We the People, in his ‘Grammar of Anarchy’ speech: “I feel, however good a Constitution may be, it is sure to turn out bad because those who are called to work it, happen to be a bad lot. However bad a Constitution may be, it may turn out to be good if those who are called to work it, happen to be a good lot. The working of a Constitution does not depend wholly upon the nature of the Constitution. The Constitution can provide only the organs of State such as the Legislature, the Executive and the Judiciary. The factors on which the working of those organs of the State depend are the people and the political parties they will set up as their instruments to carry out their wishes and their politics…..It is, therefore, futile to pass any judgement upon the Constitution without reference to the part which the people and their parties are likely to play”.
Justice V R Krishna Iyer said, “If we did a performance audit on the crucible set by Ambedkar,we may just be above water”.That was in 1980. Now? Just see and hear the charges being traded by the political parties in Karnataka.They are so personal and so much dirty linen. Mind you, it is just the start, as elections are slated for 22nd May,2023 and these are the lawmakers who will be ‘working Ambedkar’s Constitution’. Phew!
It may be trite to repeat what is all too popular about Ambedkar. Let us get into what is not in viral circulation, in the context of caliber of lawmakers contesting. In 1943, Babasaheb Bhimrao Ambedkar was included in the Viceroy Committee. At the same time, he also worked for the Department of Public Works (PWD). The budget of this department was several millions and the contractors were competing for their contract. In his greed, a scheming entrepreneur from Delhi sent his son to Babasaheb’s son, Yashwant Rao, and offered to make him a member of his ‘club’ and grant a commission of 25 to 50% to obtain the contract via Babasaheb. Yashwant Rao was enticed by this deception and reached out to convey this message to his father. As soon as Babasaheb heard this, he became furious and told his son, “I am a servant of the society. I am protecting the interest of the community and its assets. There is no way I could compromise on my principles and cut corners for furthering self-interest or my kins’. This is most unbecoming of you and reprehensible conduct for which you deserve to be banished to Bombay to live on your own, even if it means you went to sleep on a hungry stomach.” Babasaheb’s son was sent packing to Bombay the same night.
Reserve Bank of India was conceptualised according to the guidelines presented by Ambedkar to the Hilton Young Commission. The pioneer of multipurpose river valley projects in India, Ambedkar, initiated the Damodar Valley Bhakra Nangal Dam, the Son River Valley, and Hirakud dam projects.He also established the Central Water Commission to facilitate the development of irrigation projects at both the Central and the state level.Karnataka may owe him a lot!
How many of us have cared to know that Dr. B.R. Ambedkar, the Pitamaha of the Constitution, was opposed to Article 306-A. (now 370). After hearing Sheikh Abdullah (who was referred to Babasaheb by Jawaharlal Nehru for constitutional recognition of special status) patiently -Dr. B.R. Ambedkar told him: “You want that India should defend Kashmir, India should develop Kashmir and Kashmiris should have equal rights as the citizens of India but you do not want India and any citizen of India to have any rights in Kashmir. I am the Law Minister of India.”
How one wishes that we always heeded/heed his prescience!
(Writer is practicing in the Madras High Court. Inputs provided by Ms. Ranganayaki Vijayaraghavan, a law student of SOEL,Chennai)