New Delhi: The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is seeking to use central government’s Azadi ka Amrit Mahotsav programme — to celebrate 75 year’s of India’s independence next year — to reach out to electorally important sections of society, including Dalits and tribals, ahead of next year’s state assembly elections. Prime Minister Narendra Modi will lead this outreach, attending and addressing a number of events, according to BJP functionaries.
In November, for example, Birsa Munda Jayanti (the birth anniversary of tribal leader Birsa Munda on 15 November), will be celebrated as part of the programme and a major event is being organised in Madhya Pradesh, which will be addressed by the PM. According to sources, lakhs of people from the tribal community are expected to attend.
On Wednesday, the Union Cabinet also cleared the proposal to celebrate 15 November ‘Janjatiya Gaurav Diwas’.
“Cabinet approved declaration of 15 November, the birth anniversary of Bhagwan Birsa Munda, as Janjatiya Gaurav Diwas. Week-long celebrations have been planned between 15 and 22 November,” said Union minister Anurag Thakur said, while briefing the media.
Madhya Pradesh has the highest number of tribals in India — about 21.5 per cent of the state’s population (according to the 2011 Census) — while scheduled castes (SC) comprise 15.6 per cent. As many as 47 of the state’s seats are reserved for STs.
“Celebrating the birth anniversary of tribal leader Birsa Munda is quite significant. In the political realm Madhya Pradesh becomes quite crucial as a number of seats in the state are reserved for the tribal community,” said a senior BJP leader from Madhya Pradesh.
Events under the banner of the ongoing Azadi ka Amrit Mahotsav, which highlights the history of India’s freedom struggle and the socio-cultural, political and economic progress made over the past 75 years, will be held across the country, between November this year and January 2022. The Azadi Ka Amrit Mahotsav started on 12 March this year, 75 week’s ahead of the country’s 75th Independence Day in 2022, and will end a year later on 15 August, 2023.
A committee headed by Home Minister Amit Shah has already approved a slew of high profile events for the programme, most of which are likely to be attended by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, according to government sources.
“Under the Azadi ka Amrit Mahotsav, landmark events have been planned for the next three months by a committee headed by Union home minister Amit Shah. The Commemorating Ambedkar: Mahaparinirvan Diwas, is a major event (under the programme), which will be organised on 6 December,” said a senior government official.
Other events to held as part of the programme include Kashi Utsav, Constitution Day (celebrated on 26 November) and Northeast festival. December will witness the Commemoration of the First War of Independence (in 1857) and Good Governance Week among others. In January, there will be events to celebrate the birth anniversary of Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose (the date of which is 23 January).
Different ministries will head different events under the Azadi ka Amrit Mahotsav.
Celebrating Ambedkar, with eye on UP, Punjab, Uttarakhand polls
One of the high-profile events, to be held on 6 December, is Mahaparinirvan Diwas — the day Dr Ambedkar passed away. According to a senior government official, the event is programmed in a way to connect PM Modi with hundreds of centres all over the country, including the panchatirth (five places connected to Ambedkar’s life and work — his janma bhoomi Mhow, diksha bhoomi Nagpur, chaitya bhoomi Mumbai, the Ambedkar National Memorial at Delhi’s Alipur Road and the Dr Ambedkar International Centre at Delhi’s Janpath), where functions to commemorate Ambedkar will be held.
The manner in which the event is being organised ahead of the Uttar Pradesh elections though, is quite significant.
Starting on Mahaparinirvan Diwas, Rs 1,000 crore will be released by the Modi government directly into the bank accounts of SC students, a departure from the current practice where the state governments used to distribute the funds provided by the Centre. However, owing to complaints of delays in disbursement of funds, from December 2021 onwards, the government has decided to directly transfer the money into the accounts of the students.
Dalits constitute about 21 per cent of UP’s population and are a major vote bank for the political parties. The BJP has been trying to reach out to the SC population and the Modi government has been announcing a number of welfare measures for them.
Earlier in August, the minister of state for Housing and Urban Affairs Kaushal Kishore had told ThePrint that BJP will campaign in UP with the inclusive slogan “Jai Ambedkar ” not “Jai Bheem”.
Not only this, Dalit constitute a large population in Uttarakhand and Punjab too and the BJP government has taken a number of steps for the welfare of the Dalit community in these states in the past.
BJP’s Dalit and OBC outreach (and the fact that it has its eye on 2022 UP assembly polls) was also visible in its recent reshuffle of Council of Ministers wherein of the 43 ministers, seven were from UP. Of these, three each belong to OBC and SC categories, while one is a Brahmin.