By A.G.Noorani

Jawaharlal Nehru said in 1963: “The danger to India, mark you, is not communism, it is Hindu right-wing communalism.”

“AFTER Independence, when the first government of the country was taking shape, Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru gave priority to give berth only to Congressmen in it. But Gandhiji advised him to include scholar leaders like Shyama Prasad [Mookerjee] and Dr. Ambedkar in the government,” L.K. Advani said in Gwalior on March 1.
He did not stop at this brazen falsehood and went on to add one more: “Though Dr. Ambedkar was later made chairman of the committee formed for framing the Indian Constitution in which he ensured that all sections of society are protected, the Congress at the time of elections adopted such tactics which ensured his defeat in the polls” (The Hindu, March 2, 2009). It is a matter of record that (a) Gandhi intensely disliked Ambedkar and (b) that Ambedkar lost in the 1952 elections to the Lok Sabha because of his own clumsy tactics. The Congress did not adopt or need to adopt any “tactics”.
This is what Gandhi wrote in a letter in Gujarati to Vallabhbhai Patel from Pune on August 1, 1946, only a year before Independence: “The main problem is about Ambedkar. I see a risk in coming to any sort of understanding with him, for he has told me in so many words that for him there is no distinction between truth or untruth or between violence and non-violence. He follows one single principle, viz. to adopt any means which will serve his purpose. One has to be very careful indeed when dealing with a man who would become a Christian, a Muslim or Sikh and then be reconverted according to his convenience. There is much more I could write in the same strain” (Collected Works of Mahatma Gandhi;Volume 85; page 102).
Whether Ambedkar was capable of saying what was attributed to him – and that too, to a political adversary – is not the issue here. What is plain beyond doubt is that a person who held such an opinion of Ambedkar would not have exerted himself only a year later to ensure for him a seat in Nehru’s Cabinet. Ambedkar’s own fine record ensured that seat. He issued an erudite statement debunking the princes’ claim to independence on the demise of the Raj.

His speech in the Constituent Assembly in December 1946 was statesmanlike: “I have got not the slightest doubt in my mind as to the future evolution and the ultimate shape of the social, political and economic structure of this great country. I know today we are divided politically, socially and economically. We are a group of warring camps and I may go even to the extent of confessing that I am probably one of the leaders of such a camp. But, Sir, with all this, I am quite convinced that given time and circumstances nothing in the world will prevent this country from becoming one. With all our castes and creeds, I have not the slightest hesitation that we shall in some form be a united people.” He was lustily cheered by the members (Constituent Assembly Debates; Volume 1-6; page 100).
Ambedkar resigned from the Union Cabinet on September 27, 1951, on the eve of the general elections. Everyone knew that the Congress was ready and willing to ensure his election. Highly emotional, he lost patience on the Hindu Code Bill, little realising that Nehru was facing opposition from President Rajendra Prasad and from some in his Cabinet. N. Gopalaswamy Ayyangar advised Nehru to postpone the debate to a date after the polls, which he did.

When Ambedkar introduced the Hindu Code Bill in Parliament on February 5, 1951, it instantly aroused opposition though in the Congress Parliamentary Party, Nehru had insisted on its passage. It was decided to take up one part, on marriage and divorce, first. The day for debate was fixed – September 17, 1951. Who opposed it most? Shyama Prasad Mookerjee. It would “shatter the magnificent structure of Hindu culture” he said as Dhananjay Keer recorded in his book Dr. Ambedkar: Life and Mission (1962, page 429). He adds that, replying to the debate as Law Minister, Ambedkar said that “Dr. Mookerjee’s remarks were not worth consideration as he had not opposed the Bill while he was in the Cabinet but opposed it now for the sake of opposition”.

Ambedkar’s credentials as a scholar are unmatched. Mookerjee’s lie only in the eye of Advani and the like. Has Mookerjee written a single work of scholarship? Ambedkar wrote over a score of them.
An angry Ambedkar gave the press the statement he had intended to make in Parliament on October 11, 1951, but did not because the Chair wanted a copy in advance. It was a wide-ranging attack on the government’s foreign and domestic policies: “The right solution for the Kashmir issue is to partition the State. Give the Hindu and Buddhist parts to India and the Muslim parts to Pakistan.” He was against non-alignment. Keer records Ambedkar’s statement that “it was Nehru who called him in his chambers and gave him an offer of ministership”.


President Rajendra Prasad (centre, front row) with members of the Central Cabinet at Government House, New Delhi, on January 31, 1950, just before he delivered his first address to Parliament. (Left to right, first row) B.R. Ambedkar, Rafi Ahmed Kidwai, Sardar Baldev Singh, Maulana Abul Kalam Azad, Jawaharlal Nehru, Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel, John Mathai, Jagjivan Ram, Rajkumari Amrit Kaur and Shyama Prasad Mookerjee. (Second row) Khurshed Lal, R.R. Diwakar, Mohanlal Saxena, Gopalaswamy Ayyangar, N.V. Gadgil, K.C. Neogi, Jairamdas Daulatram, K. Santhanam, Satya Narayan Sinha and B.V. Keskar. Ambedkar resigned from the Cabinet on September 27, 1951, on the eve of the general elections.

The too-clever-by-half socialist leader Asoka Mehta forged an electoral pact with Ambedkar. In the clime of 1952, it harmed both parties. The Socialists, Mehta included, were wiped out in Bombay (now Mumbai), losing in the process their morale, which they never recovered, thanks largely to Mehta and Ram Manohar Lohia. Ambedkar was prepared for the defeat. He blamed Communist Party of India (CPI) leader S.A. Dange for it, not Nehru as Advani does in 2009 (page 438). Keer thought that the electorate was ungrateful. But he noted fairly: “The advocacy for the partition of Kashmir, his speech before the Bombay Muslims on separate electorates for the Muslims, lack of positive speeches before the people and above all the weakness of his disorganised party resulted in the rout” (page 437).

Prime ministerial ambition

Advani’s are not minor factual errors. The record shows him up as one who recklessly, wilfully made statements of fact that were utterly untrue and widely known to be untrue. The law of libel recognises, among falsehoods, statements known to be false, the lie proper, a word not to be used in civil discourse. But, on a par with it, legally and morally, is the statement made with utter disregard of whether it is true or false. Whatever drove Advani to stoop to this? Desperation for power is one reason. It is his last bid for the Prime Minister’s office. Festering old hatred for Nehru is another.

Advani is the first politician in India to lay claim to the office of the Prime Minister so openly and for so long.
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