No memorial to woo Dalits
A month after the ruling Congress and the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) appeased the Dalit votebank by promising that a memorial for Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar would be constructed in the entire 12.5-acre Indu Mills land at Shivaji Park, no move has been made by the government to facilitate transfer of the land.
The joint committee of secretaries of the Centre and the state, formed to work out modalities of the transfer, has not even met once to discuss the issue. The committee’s report was originally due on January 26.
The committee includes secretary of textiles, NTC representative, ministry of forests and environment representative, chief secretary Ratnakar Gaikwad, civic chief Subodh Kumar and urban development secretary TC Benjamin.
On January 1, a delegation led by chief minister Prithviraj Chavan met Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and got in-principle approval for the memorial. This was seen as a political checkmate to the move by Republican Party of India (Athawale faction) to tie up with the Shiv Sena for the civic and zilla parishad polls, which had the Congress worried about losing its traditional vote bank.
Sources in the government said the transfer was impossible before the civic polls. “The joint committee will decide how to compensate National Textiles Corporation (NTC) for loss of land and other modalities. But no meeting has been convened. It is a complicated subject and will take time,’’ said a senior official.
Politically, the Congress, by securing the of transfer Indu Mills land and backing protests by the little-known Anandraj Ambedkar, grandson of Dr Ambedkar, had snubbed Ramdas Athawale. “We have been given a word by the PM on the issue and it will be a shame if it does not happen soon,’’ said Anandraj.
The Congress has also announced a tie-up with Bharipa Bahujan Mahasangh, led by Anandraj’s elder brother Prakash Ambedkar.