Athavale exhorts Mayawati to embrace Buddhism

By Shyam Pandharipande, IANS

Mumbai : Republican Party of India (RPI) president Ramdas Athavale has exhorted Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) leader Mayawati to embrace Buddhism at her rally here Sunday if she is a true follower of Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar.

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“Mayawati invokes the name of Ambedkar and professes faith in Buddhist tenets but has so far avoided taking the ‘deeksha’ (ritual signifying acceptance of Buddhist religion), which she should do tomorrow (Nov 25) if her professed allegiance is true”, Athavale told IANS Saturday.

Ambedkar embraced Buddhism with thousands of his followers in 1956 and millions more have followed suit since then, Athavale pointed out to Mayawati who, he said, always swears by the Dalit icon but does not walk the path shown by him.

Athavale said Kanshi Ram’s (BSP founder) party appropriated RPI’s blue cap, blue flag and election symbol (elephant) in a bid to get Dalit following but it will not get much success in Maharashtra.

“BSP might, at best, be able to lure a few disgruntled elements from the Congress and other parties but will not be able to influence the Ambedkarite people who have seen the party forge opportunistic alliance with the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)”, Athavale asserted, discounting apprehensions that BSP would erode RPI’s mass base.

He counselled Mayawati to stay focused on Uttar Pradesh where her party has been able to come to power with the support of Brahmins and other upper castes rather than dissipating her energies in other states.

“Ambedkarites elsewhere have seen BSP’s drift from ‘bahujan’ (the deprived, discriminated and exploited lower crust bulk of society) to ‘sarvajan’, which include the upper crust of non-secular exploitative sections and thus would not favour Mayawati”, Athavale said.

In the same breath, he said his party has adopted a 60-40 formula (60 percent Dalits and 40 percent non-Dalits) in keeping with Ambedkar’s idea of not keeping the Republican Party restricted to Dalits.

“BSP has 19 members in the Lok Sabha, all from UP; its efforts in other states like Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Maharashtra in the next election would end up helping the BJP and Congress without achieving anything more than petty bargaining strength”, Athavale surmised.

Referring to the BSP’s claim to register an unprecedented presence of five million people at Dadar’s famous Shivaji Park, he said even Mahatma Gandhi could not achieve such a feat. “Mayawati could at the most beat her mentor Kanshi Ram’s record of holding a 15,000-strong rally there”, Athavale said.

“We (RPI) are taking out a golden jubilee march of the party which will start from Nashik Jan 5 and culminate at Shivaji Park Feb 17 … and our effort would be to muster a larger presence than the BSP would enlist tomorrow (Sunday)”, he said.

Meanwhile, the Shivaji Park venue is all set for a spectacular show of strength. While the dais has been given the shape of the Sanchi stupa (world famous Buddhist monastery with a dome), an imposing replica of the Marathwada Ambedkar Vidyapeeth (university) gate forms the backdrop.

The entire suburb of Dadar and adjoining Matunga have been painted blue with slogans. Hoardings and banners screaming announcement of the rally have been put up at every available place and Mayawati’s picture cutouts have popped up at vantage points.

Several workers of different parties including former and a few sitting MPs and MLAs are expected to join the rally, the party’s state unit chief Vilas Garud told IANS.