In a first-of-its-kind move on the death anniversary of Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar by any Maharashtra government, the Devendra Fadnavis government on Saturday accorded state honours to the architect of the Indian constitution. In an equally significant gesture, the Centre within a month of the only ever BJP government in the state has given its nod for the construction of a grand memorial for Dr. Ambedkar at the now defunct Indu Mill in Mumbai after requests by the State. A memorial for Dr. Ambedkar at the 12.5 acre compound in West Dadar had been the longstanding demand of various Dalit groups.
While the State accorded State honours on Dr. Ambedkar, leaders cutting across political lines > converged at his memorial ‘Chaityabhoomi’ near Shivaji Park in Dadar to pay their tribute.
Ambedkar was cremated here in 1956. Observed as 'Mahaparinirvan Din', on his death anniversary each year lakhs of followers travel from across the country and congregate at the site. Mr. Fadnavis along with his cabinet offered floral tributes to the leader and lit candles before his statue. Acknowledging Dr. Ambedkar’s contribution to the upliftment of the downtrodden, Mr. Fadnavis expressed his happiness at the Union Textile Ministry’s nod to the long held demand of the construction of a grand memorial. The Centre’s nod will essentially expedite the project.
“I am glad that Textiles Minister Santosh Gangwarji has made the announcement. All the formalities will be completed soon,” Mr. Fadnavis said, adding that the memorial will be unparalleled not only in the country but also the world. The BJP had in its election vision document in Maharashtra promised to complete the “grand national memorial for Dr. Ambedkar within five years.”
The BJP’s urgency in getting the memorial constructed has raised eyebrows among political observers. Professor Badri Narayan, an expert on Dalit politics, said the BJP government’s move was an obvious gesture to appeal to the “larger, core voter constituency of Dalits, who directly relate to Ambedkar,” and was not limited to appeasing peripheral Dalit groups. Several fringe Dalit leaders, including the Ramdas Athvale-led RPI-A already aligns with the BJP.
Former CM Prithviraj Chavan also paid tribute to Dr. Ambedkar and said the country must “take lessons from his life.” To manage the heavy rush of followers to the memorial site, the government ran several special trains, while the BEST (Brihanmumbai Electric Supply and Transport Undertaking) supplied extra buses. The BMC also took measures to provide food, toilet and medical facilities to the large number of people at the venue.