Read the Babasaheb Ambedkar’s Election speech delivered at Patiala, Punjab in which he attacked Congress and raised important issues.
Dated 29th October 1951
Dear brothers, as my friend Mr. Rajbhoj has told you, I am not feeling well to-day. This is due to the fact that I had to travel a long journey by road. So I will not be able to speak for a long time but I will speak on some important topics.
Everybody in India is busy with elections. There are many politicians and parties who have nothing else but elections with them. I very much appreciate the anxiety of the people about the coming elections and agree that we should think many times before we decide to vote for a party or an individual. The people elected now will continue in office for five long years. So we must be very careful about it. This is the time of life and death for political parties as well as individuals. Every citizen and nation have got to take a proper part in elections and but for this, their very existence is in danger.
You know that today the Congress is the party in power in India. It is forty years old and it has got large funds at its disposal. For the last four or five years, Congress Party is governing over India. Congressmen are now canvassing people to vote for the Congress. They argue that no other party is so powerful to run the Government and can achieve what Congress has achieved in the past and will be able to do in the future. They state, only under the Congress rule India can prosper and as such all people, whatever their religion, caste, creed might be, should vote for the Congress candidates and make them successful in the coming election. This is what Congressmen are propagating.
It is right that Congress has got means of propaganda so much so that every candidate standing for Congress ticket will have more than 100 agents at his disposal for his propaganda. Congress has got its Headquarters where so many people are working like Government servants. They have got officers of each and every branch. This is all due to money. Congress is the richest party in India. With money, it can do whatever it likes. Without money, no party can propagate and without proper propaganda, no other party can flourish. Congress has so moulded the public opinion through propaganda in its favour, that now it is trying to do all sorts of things under its cover.
Congress has been in power now for four years and you can well understand what it has done for the people. There is no food, no clothes and no shelter. Congress has failed to deliver the goods during these four years and how can one expect that it would help people if it comes into power again? Corruption, nepotism and black-market are the only industries which have flourished during the Congress rule. Corruption and other evils are even greater now than during the British rule over India. We are dying of starvation and there is such a vast disparity between the rich and the poor. If the Congress has not been able to remove this disparity during the five years, how will it be able to do in future? Rich people are becoming richer and poor are becoming poorer day by day. What has Congress done in this direction?
Congress Government is corrupt Government. Congress Ministers take bribes. They get money through black-market. They are corrupt. If our Ministers are of such bad character, you can well understand how their subordinates will behave and what will be the position of the labour under the Capitalists. I had expected that our present Prime Minister will do something in this connection and bribery, corruption, black-marketing will end forever. But I am sorry to note that in his Presidential Address to the All India Congress General Session in New Delhi, Pandit Nehru stated that corruption is rampant in other countries also; and as such, we should not worry very much if it is prevalent in India too. He further added that corruption and bribery are in a very small scale in India as compared to other countries. I do not know how Prime Minister is going to remove this evil when he is openly encouraging it by saying that corruption is in very small scale here. Even if it is in small scale, it must be removed. What has the Prime Minister done in this direction? Should be kept quit if the Ministers and other high officials of the Government are corrupt?
All that I have said is not my criticism, but the Congressmen themselves have criticised the Congress Ministers and none else. In Madras, for instance, Mr. T.Prakasham was the premier for some time. When he was turned out from office and Mr. Raju occupied his seat, there were certain charges against Mr. Prakasham and when an enquiry was made it was found that he had earned a huge amount through bribery, etc. He had issued thousands of licenses and permits. The same thing is happening in Madhya Pradesh. There are so many Ministers who have taken bribe but still, they are Ministers of the worthy Government. Nobody is taking any action against them but they are being encouraged instead. The people who charge these Ministers are being sent to jail. What is happening in Punjab? Mr. Sachar and Dr.Bhargava are fighting against each other. Both were Premiers in the Punjab. Both have pleaded not guilty. Each has demanded an enquiry against the other. No one can deny the fact that both took bribery and encouraged black-marketing during their rule in the Punjab and still no enquiry is being made. Now they are again trying for the Premiership. During the coming elections, they want to put as many candidates of their own camp on Congress tickets as would be sufficient to support them for the Premiership. The last date for the filing of papers in Punjab is 5th November but up to this day i.e. 29th October 1951, no list has so far been finalised because of their differences and I think that they will never come to a point.
When any person has charged any Minister or another government official for bribery, it is the duty of the Government to institute an enquiry and punish the culprit. No government can exist if it allows it, Ministers and other high dignitaries, to take the bribe in such a way. If every government Minister will make money what will be the government then? In England, one Minister was charged for bribery in the House of Commons. Mr. Attlee, the then Prime Minister is England, at once ordered an enquiry, a Commission was appointed to enquire the matter. The Commission stated in its report that the Minister concerned has taken some cloth from a friend of his, who happened to be a businessman and that this act of his cannot be taken as a bribe. But even on this ground that he accreted the cloth from a businessman, whether he was friend or enemy, without paying any money, Mr. Attlee turned that Minister out from the office. But our Congress government does not even feel its duty to enquire into the charges against the Ministers, not to speak of their removal from office.
Congressmen ask the people to vote for the Congress and promise that they will work for the welfare of all. The state that they will remove poverty and help the backward classes so that they will achieve a better standard of life. I want to ask you, can the snake and the mongoose live together? Can cat co-operate with the rat? Can elephant live with Birree? Certainly, if the snake wants to mix up with Mongoose will eat up the snake. Rat will be swallowed by the cat, if it wants to join hands with the cat. Similarly, an elephant cannot enjoy the life with ‘Birree’. Mongoose is the enemy of the snake, cat is the enemy of rat and ‘Birree’ is the enemy of the elephant. They cannot form a joint company. Similarly, in the human world, there are weak as well as strong persons. One is the enemy of the other and certainly weak cannot live peacefully in company with the strong. Moneylender will try to exploit the borrower to his own advantage. Bania will always try to extract what it can, out of the poor people. Brahmans will never show sympathy for the poor Scheduled Castes and if they do so, there will be nobody to serve them. There are so many sections in this world which are enemies. There are poor as well as rich sections, and the rich are always there to exploit the poor. Now I want to question you that if we form a party of the snake, mongoose, cat, rat, elephant and ‘Birree’ will the snake, rat and elephant be safe there? Certainly not. They will always be at the mercy of their masters. Similarly, if the Depressed Classes join hands with the Brahmins and form a political party, do you think that the Depressed Classes will be safe there? I warn you to be careful and give the fullest consideration to this matter. You should not be caught in the net spread by the congress. If you think that by joining hands with the high caste people you will be better off, then you are mistaken. The high caste people will always suppress the backward classes. High Caste people will enjoy the freedom whereas our people will remain as they are. Poor people can never flourish under the rich and must unite separately to achieve their purpose.
To safeguard the interests of the Depressed Classes, we have formed our own political party called the Scheduled Castes Federation. Through our efforts, we have secured certain privileges which have been incorporated in the Constitution itself. Certain seats have been reserved for the Scheduled Castes in the State Assemblies and the Union Parliament. Only Scheduled Caste people can be elected to those seats. But if our true representatives are not elected to the Assemblies, and the Congress nominees are elected to the reserved seats, then our rights cannot be safeguarded. Our people elected on the Congress tickets will be tools in the hands of the Congress and they will serve their own selves. Just take the case of the two Scheduled Caste Deputy Ministers who are in the PEPSU Ministry. They were elected on the Congress tickets. What have they done for you? Our children are uneducated. We are as poor as before. We have not got any land. We are not treated like human beings in the villages. Have they done anything in this regard? I have come to know that as soon as they came to know that I am visiting Patiala, they start anti-propaganda. They asked the Scheduled Castes people to boycott the Conference. Now you can judge what the people elected on the Congress tickets can do for us. Those who seek Congress tickets are selfish and selfish people can never think of others. You cannot expect anything from them.
To join Congress is easy. It was easier for me to do so with my qualifications. Everybody will join Congress if it is beneficial to all. But if by joining congress, we do not benefit, what is use of our going over to Congress? Well! I was in congress government I have never accepted bribe; I have never tried to use unfair means to collect money. I challenge, that there is not a single charge against me.
Our conditions have even worsened with the coming of the Congress into power. No practical steps have been taken to ameliorate our grievances. Everything has been said but nothing has been done so far for the good of our people. We want to make it clear that we are very much depressed and if this thing continued further, a revolution is inevitable. We thought that our Hindu brothers will do something for the good of our people, but all hopes have been duped us. Some seats have been reserved for the Scheduled Castes in the Assemblies but our true representatives are not allowed to be elected to these seats. This reservation is only for ten years and what will happen afterwards, we cannot say. Do think that after ten years we will be well off to compete with the high caste people in the society. Will our people be so rich as to fight side by side with the Hindus? I want to give a warning to these high caste people that if our conditions remained as they are to-day, then we will have to use some other means, either they will live here or we will live. We are fed up with this sort of living and are not going to tolerate it anymore.
Brahman and Baniya have never, died for freedom although they are the only fortunate who are deriving benefits now. Let me know how many of them have died in the last war? How many of them are in the army? If there is conscription, our people will be the first to go to the army. They will do their duty as they have done previously. Poor have always protected the rich although rich have never shown any sympathy with them. Therefore, I warn these high caste people that a revolution is inevitable unless something is done for the betterment of the backward classes.
For thirty long years, I fought for the cause of my community. I never complained that I am not a Minister and that I should be given some high post. I have never demanded anything for my own self. Gandhi always opposed me. When Gandhi demanded Swaraj, I told him that I entirely agree with his demand and will definitely support him but asked him only one question, as to what will be the position of the Scheduled Castes in his so-called Swaraj? Will our people be given some good standard of life? Will they be educated? Will there be no harassment of the high caste people in Swaraj? Now the people of India are free, what benefit we have derived out of it? If we are backward today, we are because of these high caste people, who have kept us away from society. They have not allowed us to make any progress simply because there was no other class to do their service. There was no other community to do the menial jobs which we are performing. There is no difference between them and we people. We are just like them. But the only difference is that according to their Dharma, we are in this world to serve them and not have equal rights. These high caste people are putting mountains before us. We are put to all sorts of difficulties so that we may not make any progress.
We have secured certain rights but these Congressmen are bent upon depriving us of the benefit of these rights against the seats reserved for the Scheduled Castes, they are putting their own candidates. When the Congress Party gives tickets to high caste people for the general seats, they ask them so many questions. They want to know first, how many times did the man concern go to jail? They want to know what interest he has taken in the struggle for Independence. I ask these Congressmen, why these questions are not put to a Scheduled Castes candidate who seeks Congress ticket for the reserved seat? Why his services to the Nation are not taken into account? Why only illiterate and unpopular are selected for the reserved seats? What are the grounds for their selection? They should ask them, whether they helped Congress in the Civil Disobedience Movement or not? Why are only fools selected?
If our true representatives are elected to the Assemblies through the Scheduled Castes Federation, we can have our grievances redressed. If they do not do anything for us, we can put them to the task. I have been in politics for 30 years now. I and Gandhi entered politics together. For eight years I was a Minister. Had I wished, I would have continued as a Minister in the Government for the whole of my life; but I have no selfish motives. So I have left the Congress Government as I think I cannot serve my community while remaining there. If you did not pay any heed to my request and our true representatives are not elected, then we will have to suffer forever. I may tell you this reservation is only for ten years i.e. for only two elections. After ten years, the reservation will go. I wanted that the reservation should remain so long as the untouchability is there but our own members who were elected to the Parliament on Congress tickets opposed me; leave aside the other caste Hindu members. I ask those people who seek Congress tickets, what will they do after the reservation is not there? Will the Congress ask them to stand on general seats on its ticket? Nobody will then even spit on them. During the past, these high caste people have treated us in a degrading manner and they will do it after the reservation is gone. I tell you if they are sympathising with us at the moment, it is only because they want to make us fools and put their ‘yes’ men in the reserved seats. After the reservation is abolished, they will again call us Chamars, Bhangis. Therefore, I tell you that you should be very cautious now and unite under the banner of the Scheduled Castes Federation. It is your duty to give your votes to the Federation candidates who will die for your cause.
Now I want to tell you a few important things. Firstly, the election symbol of the Scheduled Caste Federation is ‘ELEPHANT’. I have come to know that some other party has also selected this symbol with this distinction that our symbol is on ‘ELEPHANT’ whereas they have a ‘Charka’ over the Elephant. So be careful about it. Do not be misled. Our Party Symbol is simply ‘ELEPHANT’ without any Charka.
Secondly, we are very few in number. If we put our candidates, they will be pulled down by other parties as they have got the majority of votes. Our strength is only 10 per cent in the villages and you will agree that with so little votes, we cannot succeed in the coming elections. So I would request you all that every man and woman should cast his vote on the polling day, leaving aside other affairs. The result will be that we will at least get our votes. If even the few voters did not cast their votes, it will be very difficult for our candidates to succeed.
Thirdly, I want to stress upon is that owing to our being minority, we shall have to join hands with some party in the elections. There will be a distributive system of voting this time and where we have reserved seats; all the people will have two votes. One for the candidate who is standing on the general seat and the other for the candidate who is standing on the reserved seat. We will give one vote to our candidate who is standing on the reserved seat and the second vote for the candidate of that party, who will cast their second vote for our candidate. We have not yet decided with which party we are making an alliance. Negotiations are going on and in a few days, it will be decided. But one thing should be clear in our minds that we are not joining hands with Congress and any cast. You should not fear Congress now. It has weakened itself at its members are fighting against one another. Congress will die its natural death.
In the end, I once again want to request you to vote for the candidate who is fighting on the Scheduled Castes Federation ticket. Federation candidates will be your true representatives, who will do everything for the welfare of our community. They will not be selfish. They will serve their community to the last.