Ambedkar Jayanti is being celebrated with fanfare today. States and Minorities are a memorandum that was submitted to the Constituent Assembly in 1947, detailing protective measures for Dalits in the new India. At that point of time Ambedkar wasn’t sure he would be part of the Constitution making body. As was the fashion in those times, Ambedkar favoured state socialism for India.
Much, however, changed in the years that followed. Ambedkar became part of the Constituent Assembly, was assigned the task of preparing the first draft of the Constitution. He then joined Nehru’s Cabinet as India’s first law minister, but quit later over the question of the Hindu Code Bill.
As years pass Ambedkar attracts more followers and keeps getting reinvented. So much so, that organisations of all hues are crowding the public space in celebration of one of India’s greatest sons.
Academics, thought leaders and politicians continue to grapple with the issue. who was Ambedkar, what ideology did he pursue? Those wedded to States and Minorities celebrate him as a socialist.
The news is of the Manifesto that Ambedkar prepared for his party, for the first Lok Sabha elections that was to take place a few months later in 1952 (the document can be found in Ambedkar Volume 21, Part 3).
Ambedkar clarifies his position in his Manifesto thus: “The policy of the Party is not tied to any particular dogma or ideology such as Communism, or Socialism, Gandhian or any other ‘ism’.”
The Manifesto talks of the rapid industrialisation of India, and to that end promises to replace small landholdings with large farms.
It adds forcefully: “Agriculture must be mechanised.” Ambedkar had sensed the role of machines in liberating his people. A Dalit tilling land using bullocks and plough is one thing, a Dalit driving a tractor quite another.
Did the private sector occupy any place in Ambedkar’s scheme of things? The Manifesto says, “Where private enterprise is possible, and national undertaking not essential, private enterprise will be allowed.” It is not hot on ideology as it affirms, “A pre-conceived pattern of industry cannot be the primary or paramount consideration.”
The Manifesto has a foreign policy as well. It cautions the Indian leadership: “Instead of fighting to make Communist China a permanent member of the UNO, India should fight for getting herself recognised as a permanent member of the UNO.” It goes on to add, “This championing of the cause of Communist China by India has been responsible for the prevailing antagonism between India and America.”
Any guesses as to what kind of India Ambedkar had in mind? Let me offer a clue: Ambedkar subtitled his States and Minorities as ‘Constitution of The United States of India’.
Long before Abdul Kalam saw India as a superpower by 2020, Ambedkar was dreaming and planning to make India as prosperous, powerful and modern as the United States.>