Ambedkar birth anniversary: Rahul Gandhi to launch Congress celebrations on Tuesday

New Delhi(PTI): Congress Vice President Rahul Gandhi will on Tuesday inaugurate the party’s year-round celebrations of the 125th birth anniversary of BR Ambedkar with the exercise being seen as an attempt by it to reach out to the Dalit community.

The observances by Congress to mark the 125th birth anniversary of Ambedkar — the architect of the Indian Constitution — will be held across the country after Gandhi flags off the commemoration at Mhow in Madhya Pradesh. Mhow is the birthplace of Ambedkar while June 2 marks the centenary of Ambedkar’s graduation from Columbia University in the USA.

The national launch, which was to have been held on Ambedkar Jayanti on April 14, was put off to a later date to ensure the presence of Gandhi, who was away on his 56-day sabbatical during that period. After paying tribute at the Ambedkar Memorial in Mhow on Tuesday, Gandhi will address a public meeting and later take part in an interaction with civil society members on the Dalit icon’s ideology and the way forward.

Congress president Sonia Gandhi had a couple of days back asked party workers to vigorously mark Ambedkar’s birth anniversary by holding year-long programmes. The exhortation came even as Congress is looking to reclaim lost ground among Dalits ahead of crucial polls in Bihar and Uttar Pradesh.

In the wake of its worst-ever performance in Lok Sabha polls, Congress has lined up a series of programmes in various parts of the country to project itself as the champion of the Dalit cause. After the launch by Gandhi tomorrow, similar state-level programmes will also be organised.

The legacy of Ambedkar has become the focus of a tussle between BJP and Congress with both parties looking to appropriate it for gaining mileage among Dalit voters. Dalits had been a strong support base for the Congress some 25 years back. But out of power in Uttar Pradesh and Bihar since 1989, the party has seen its social base crumbling in the wake of the Mandal Commission and Babri Masjid surge and later the rise of BSP.

Both Congress and BJP have lined up plans to observe Ambedkar’s birth anniversary in a big way so as to reach out to the Dalit community.

The last Lok Sabha polls saw caste barriers breaking in key north Indian states like Uttar Pradesh and Bihar, where a sizeable section of Dalits voted for BJP.