National

Modi's claim about Nehru cold-shouldering Ambedkar not correct

Prime Minister Modi during his election speeches has been alleging that Nehru did not give due respect to Dr. Ambedkar. But the facts are contrary. Extracts from Ramchandra Guha’s monuments book “India After Gandhi” refute Modi’s claim.

The list of members of first ministry apart from Prime Minister Nehru, listed thirteen other ministers. These included the nationalist stalwarts Vallabhbhai Patel and Maulana Abul Kalam Azad, as well as four Congress politicians of the younger generation.

More notable perhaps were the names of those who were not from the Congress. These included two representatives of the world of commerce and one representative of the Sikhs. Three others were lifelong adversaries of the Congress. These were R.K. Shanmukham Chetty, a Madras businessman who possessed one of the best financial minds in India; B.R. Ambedkar, a brilliant legal scholar and an ‘Untouchable’ by caste; and Shyama Prasad Mookerjee, a leading Bengal politician who belonged (at this time) to the Hindu Mahasabha. All three had collaborated with the ruler while the Congress men served time in British jails. But now Nehru and his colleagues wisely put aside these differences. Gandhi had reminded them that ‘freedom comes to India, not to the Congress alone, urging the formation of a Cabinet that included the ablest men regardless of party affiliation.

The first Cabinet of free India was ecumenical in ways other than the political. Its members came from as many as five religious denominations (with a couple of atheists thrown in for good measure), and from all parts of India. There was a woman, Rajkumari Amrit Kaur, as well as two Untouchables.

Ambedkar showered praise on Congress

Mahatma Gandhi had once expressed his desire to see an Untouchable woman installed as the first president of India. That did not happen, but some compensation was at hand when an Untouchable man, Dr. B.R. Ambedkar, was asked to serve as the chairman of the Drafting Committee of the Constituent Assembly.

On 25 November 1949, the day before the Assembly wound up its proceedings, Ambedkar made a moving speech summing up their work. He thanked his fellow members of the Drafting Committee, thanked their support staff, and thanked a party of which he had been a lifelong opponent. Without the quiet work in and out of the House by the Congress bosses, he would not have been able to render order out of chaos. ‘It is because of the discipline of the Congress Party that the Drafting Committee was able to pilot the Constitution in the Assembly with the sure knowledge as to the fate of each article and each amendment.’

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