Life and Mission of Dr Ambedkar

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A New Party     

1. Starts New Party - The year 1937 was to witness the inauguration of the Provincial Autonomy under the Govt of India Act. The coming elections aroused keen interest. Like every party BRA too began to lay down his plans. After discussions with colleagues he founded a new political party called the Independent Labor Party or ILP in August 1936 and drew up a program, which answered all the immediate needs & grievances of the landless, poor tenants, agriculturists & workers.

Its agenda emphasized rehabilitation of old industries, starting of new ones, extensive program of technical education, state management & state ownership of industries where necessary. For the benefit of industrial workers, the Party would endeavor to introduce legislation to control the employment, promotion & dismissal in factories, fix minimum hours of work, provide for adequate wages etc. The Party promised to help social reformers, penalizing all forms of orthodoxy & reactionerism. It proposed village planning & to modernize village outlook. Then he left for Geneva but it is said that his inner motive was to sound the British statesman whether the safeguards for the DC would be available if they went over to Sikhism.

2. No Sikhism - BRA’s conversion threat aroused the caste Hindus as never before to the injustice inflicted on the DC. For the first time the Dasara celebrations of the Mysore State would have Harijans take part. Then Travancore State threw open about 1,600 State controlled temples to the DC. Even Nehru a man who was never concerned with the fate of the Hindus was moved by the extent of these changes.

BRA spent a week in London, reached Bombay on 14/1/1937. He said that he had no interviews of a political nature with anyone in London. He affirmed his decision to leave Hinduism but had not declared which religion he would adopt. His immediate concern was the ensuing elections to the Bombay Legislative Assembly. The British were too involved with the crisis brought about by the proposed marriage of King Edward VIII to worry about the DC’s. Prior to his meeting the British, BRA had consulted some German & other Europeans jurists of repute as to the possibility of the DC retaining the reserved seats in the Provincial Assemblies if DC became Sikhs for the Sikhs were granted reserved seats only in Punjab. Later the Sikh authorities & BRA could not hit it off and so they parted.

3. Elections – BRA launched his election campaign. His new party faced opposition from the Congress, which was equipped with men, money & surrounded by the halo of patriotic sacrifices. It is rather surprising that BRA who had presided over the All India DC & was the voice of the dumb millions, could not create an All India Party to fight the elections. His new Party was mostly confined to Bombay province.

BRA had to explain to people why a new party? His reply was that in the Provincial Legislative Assembly there were 175 seats out of which only 15 were reserved seats. It was obvious that the strength of 15 members was insufficient for an active opposition. So in consultation with his loyal caste Hindu colleagues he decided to set up some more candidates for the general seats. One it preserved the goodwill of his colleagues, two the party became broad based & wider field of influence. BRA toured all districts in Bombay Presidency. Another feature of the election was BRA extended support to L B Bhopatkar, leader of the Democratic Swaraj Party. Though BRA knew that this party was mostly supported by orthodox reactionaries, he knew Bhopatkar’s sterling qualities & sincerity of purpose. He also believed in working the new constitution & for propagating this idea his colleague N C Kelkar had borne the brunt of the attack from Congressmen & press. BRA supported Bhopatkar while Kelkar praised BRA. Untouchables pledging support for a Poona Brahmin!

The Congress Party put up candidates in all provinces. The seat contested by BRA & Bhopatkar was contested by the Congress with all its might. Election took place on 17/2/1937 where BRA won but Bhopatkar lost against heavy odds. Of the 17 candidates put up by the ILP 15 came out successful.

DC celebrated BRA’s victory. Another victory awaited BRA. The protracted case over the use of the water of the Chowdar Tank was decided in favor of the DC by the Bombay High Court on 17/3/1937. The Congress won at the polls but was opposed to the acceptance of office. BRA expressed his firm determination to work for the new constitution for what is was worth in the best interest of the DC. At last the Congress leaders decided to take office on 19/7/1937. Congressmen took the oath of allegiance to the British king, BRA refused to swear by the Geeta, but he took the oath in a dignified manner. Two leaders BRA & Jamnadas Mehta from the opposition parties in the Bombay Assembly were the best lot of the lot in the country & formidable for any Assembly in the world. Most of the Congress ministers were inexperienced.

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