At a rally on Tuesday, the CM said his government was the one to erect the tallest statue of Dr Ambedkar in the world, at 125 feet, near the state secretariat near Hyderabad, and introduce schemes such as the Dalit Bandhu through which Scheduled Caste (SC) families are given a direct transfer benefit of Rs 10 lakh
KCR, as Rao is popularly known, went on to target the Congress, saying, “The BRS government will work until the last Dalit family gets Dalit Bandhu. Ambedkar undertook a lot of struggles for Dalits. It was the Congress which ensured his defeat in the parliamentary elections. You should know the history of who defeated Ambedkar in the parliamentary elections. The Congress defeated him and did not implement his ideology,” he said.
Which election was he referring to?
After India became independent in 1947, Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru formed the first Union Cabinet with 15 members picked from a wide range of communities and some of his known detractors. Dr Ambedkar was appointed the Union Law Minister.
The Congress hegemony was at its peak at the time but various other political strands, too, were beginning to assert themselves even before the first elections. Syama Prasad Mookerji (industries minister under Nehru) broke away to set up the Bharatiya Jana Sangh, the precursor to the BJP, representing the Hindu right wing. Ambedkar formed the Scheduled Caste Federation (SCF). He had earlier formed the Independent Labour Party (ILP) in 1936.
Historian Ramchandra Guha writes in an article titled “Democracy’s Biggest Gamble: India’s first free elections in 1952”, published in World Policy Journal in 2002, that Ambedkar sharply attacked the Congress “for doing little to lift up the lower castes”.
“It was the same old tyranny, the same old oppression, the same old discrimination … After freedom had been won, said Ambedkar, the Congress Party had degenerated into a dharamsala (rest home), without unity of purpose or principles, and open to all, fools and knaves, friends and foes, communalists and secularists, reformers and ortho-dox and capitalists and anti-capitalists,” Guha writes.
The first general elections were held between October 1951 and February 1952, with Ambedkar contesting from Bombay North Central. The Socialist Party led by Ashok Mehta supported him. This was a dual-member constituency, meaning it would have two representatives of whom at least one shall be a woman. This practice was abolished in 1961. Heavyweights such as Communist Party leader S A Dange contested the elections. Ambedkar came third, losing to the Congress’s Narayan Sadoba Kajrolkar by 15,000 votes.
The result was in line with the larger Congress wave under Nehru. The Congress won in a landslide, winning 364 out of 489 seats in Parliament and 2,247 out of 3,280 seats in the Assemblies.
Following his loss, Ambedkar questioned the outcome. “How the overwhelming support of the public of Bombay could have been belied so grossly is really a matter for inquiry by the Elections Commissioner,” a PTI report quotes him as saying on January 5, 1952.
Ambedkar and Mehta filed a joint election petition before the Chief Election Commissioner to set aside the result and declare it null and void. They claimed, among other things, that an “aggregate of 74,333 ballot papers had been rejected and not counted”.
What Ambedkar’s loss meant
Political scientist Christophe Jaffrelot writes in a 2010 article titled “Caste and Politics” published in the Indian International Centre Quarterly that the election showed that the SCF remained confined to Maharashtra and could not attract voters beyond Ambedkar’s own Mahar community.
Jaffrelot writes that the Republican Party of India, which Ambedkar formed in 1956, was open “to other groups such as religious minorities, lower castes and aborigines, rather than only to Dalits”. “This approach would ensure the rise of RPI in the 1960s. It is this perspective that the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) was to follow even more successfully later,” he writes.