He is comfortable identifying himself as an activist rather than a politician.
Apart from his striking facial resemblance to Dr B.R. Ambedkar, Prakash Ambedkar, 63, shares the indomitable spirit of his grandfather and dalit icon’s desire to serve the masses whose welfare he enshrined in the Constitution. He is comfortable identifying himself as an activist rather than a politician. In an interview, Prakash Ambedkar tells Rahul Chhabra about his vision and journey ahead.
Q: You were considered by the united Opposition to be the presidential candidate? What happened?
A: I know the Left parties recommended my name for Opposition’s candidate for the presidential poll but the Congress opposed it. Obviously, the Congress had in mind its own dalit leader, Meira Kumar, first woman Lok Sabha Soeaker.Even if I would have been shortlisted as a candidate, I wouldn’t have contested the poll. I don’t believe in ornamental posts.
Q: You carry the legacy of Babasaheb Bhim Rao Ambedkar. Others like late Kanshi Ram and former Uttar Pradesh chief minister Mayawati have encashed his iconic status in dalit politics. Why are you in wilderness?
A: I am an activist. For over three decades, I have been fighting against ages of hegemony spread by Vedic, Hindu and Manuwadi organisations like the RSS. I doubt if I will be able to achieve as much by being a part of those (politicians) who indulge in all types of wrongdoings. But the seat of power can certainly help in channelising resources for the welfare of the people. It doesn’t matter who is on the seat, as long as the society is changing and change is accepted.
Q: In today’s scenario, political power seems to be necessary for social change, do you agree?
A: As for taking a political course to bring about social change, I have realised after my stints in the Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha that by being outside the system you can effectively challenge the centre of power and force it to change. We are evolving. Maybe, we will review our course of action for the country’s welfare.
We are not in a hurry. I don’t want to be another Arvind Kejriwal, who tried to continue activism even after coming to power and held a protest, despite being a chief minister, near Rail Bhavan in Delhi and very nearly jeopardised the Republic Day parade in 2015.
Q: Why don’t you follow in the footstep of Babasaheb to contribute to the deprived sections by playing a larger role at the national level?
A: Lately, there is a growing realisation among the educated supporters of our movement to chart a political course parallel to the social struggle. Some ground-level activists, however, still believe that we should take a political plunge only after complete social change has been achieved. As I said earlier, we are ourselves in a state of evolution.
Q: What is your current political focus?
A: We have our own political group - Bharipa Bahujan Mahasangh (BBM). Apart from supporting the BBM, which is active in Maharashtra, I am now working as a guide, friend and philosopher of the Republican Party of India. I am trying to help the RPI spread its wings in UP, Madhya Pradesh, Haryana, Rajasthan, Telangana, Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka.
Q: Are you satisfied with whatever you have done in political and social spectrums?
A: I am satisfied that we created an alternative social agenda to the Vedic, Hindu and Manuwadi ideology that relies upon hierarchy, graded inequality, hatred towards each other and keeping alive hegemony. Still, much more needs to be done.
Q: There is a spurt in the incidents of lynching in the name of cow protection and beef eating, your comments?
A: The frequent incidents of mob lynching are also a manifestation of the Vedic, Hindu and Manuwadi ideology which uses vigilantism to sustain social hegemony. The sharing of meals by the BJP’s top leaders, including the party chief Amit Shah, with dalits, too, reflects this ideology of tokenism, without working for the reconstruction of society.
Q: Don’t you agree that the BJP’s efforts to woo dalits shows that this Manuwadi party, as it is called by many dalit leaders like you, is recognising the potential of dalits?
A: I have been a social activist all my life, supporting and initiating social struggles. Whatever change we have been able to bring about in society – by way of creating social acceptability for the marginalised sections among the young generations of the upper castes – has been achieved without being in power. The BJP and the RSS parivar is doing a mere lip service; it is tokenism. They don’t have any love for dalits.
Q: But Prime Minister Narendra Modi chose a dalit BJP leader Ram Nath Kovind as the President of India, the highest constitutional post.
A: It is all part of their grand design to stay in power. The dalits are being wooed as these marganlised poor people are a big vote bank too.
The sangh parivar’s eye is on the 2019 general elections and polls for many states coming up in between. Also, dalit agitations have come up in many states, especially, Gujarat and Uttar Pradesh - key areas to secure power.
Q: Mayawati has succeed — rightly or wrongly — in establishing herself as the only leader who is carrying forward the torch of Babasaheb Ambedkar. Why don’t people in north India know you?
A: I admit that almost half of the followers of Babasaheb do not know me, but herein lies the challenge for me to touch their lives by strengthening our movement.