Did Congress and CPI Conspire to Defeat Baba Saheb Bhimrao Ambedkar in the First Lok Sabha Elections?

Dalit History Month Special: Dr. Ambedkar and Ashok Mehta had filed a joint election petition before the Chief Election Commissioner to set aside the election result and declare it invalid, claiming, among other things, that a total of 74,333 ballot papers had been rejected and were not counted. Baba Saheb was defeated in his first election by 15 thousand votes.
Did Congress and CPI Conspire to Defeat Baba Saheb Bhimrao Ambedkar in the First Lok Sabha Elections?

New Delhi- As two phases of the 2024 Lok Sabha elections have concluded, and the fervor of political campaigning intensifies for the upcoming third phase, it's an apt moment to reflect on the historical backdrop of India's inaugural general elections in 1951-52. Delving into the archives, The Mooknayak embarked on a journey to unravel the essence of that epochal event and shed light on the debut Lok Sabha endeavor of Baba Saheb Bhimrao Ambedkar, revered as the beacon of hope for Dalits and a stalwart champion of social justice.

Baba Saheb Bhim Rao Ambedkar contested the first Lok Sabha election from Mumbai North Central seat under his party Scheduled Castes Federation. The Socialist Party led by Ashok Mehta had supported him. It was a 2-member constituency, where one candidate each from General and Scheduled Caste/Tribe contested the elections from the same seat. This practice continued in the country till 1961.

Although this was the era of Congress and Nehru wave. It is said that after independence, there was a feeling of gratitude among the people towards the party. Because of this, Congress had performed brilliantly in these elections. All those who contested the elections on behalf of the party had won.

Why were the election results not in favor of Baba Saheb?

Dr. Ambedkar had to face defeat in these elections. Congress's Narayan Sadoba Kajrolkar defeated him by about 15,000 votes. Kajrolkar had worked as Dr. Ambedkar's Personal Assistant. Veterans like Communist Party leader SA Dange had also contested elections from here.

Under the leadership of Pandit Nehru, Congress won a landslide victory and won 364 out of 489 Lok Sabha seats. Apart from this, out of 3280 seats in the assemblies, 2247 seats went to the party's account.

After the defeat in the elections, Baba Saheb Bhimrao Ambedkar had raised questions on the results. This defeat was painful for him because Maharashtra was his workplace. A report by news agency PTI on January 5, 1952, quoted him as saying - "How the overwhelming support of the people of Bombay could have been so badly denied is, in fact, a matter for investigation by the Election Commissioner."

Was it a conspiracy?

Dr. Ambedkar and Ashok Mehta had filed a joint election petition before the Chief Election Commissioner to cancel the election result and declare it invalid. Among other things, they also claimed that a total of 74,333 ballot papers were rejected and not counted. However, what action did the Central Election Commission take on this complaint? This thing never became public. Due to this, the real reasons for Baba Saheb's defeat could not be known.

After this setback, Dr. Ambedkar contested the by-election from the Bhandara constituency of Maharashtra in the year 1954. However, he again lost to Congress by about 8500 votes. During this campaign, Ambedkar targeted the Nehru leadership and particularly criticized his foreign policy.

Some scholars say that the election showed that Dr. Ambedkar's party, the Scheduled Castes Federation, remained limited to Maharashtra and could not attract voters other than his own Mahar community. Unfortunately, Dr. Ambedkar passed away on 6 December 1956, before the second Lok Sabha elections held in the country in the year 1957.

Allegations against Nehru

Allegations abound that Pandit Nehru aimed to diminish Ambedkar's influence by sidelining him from mainstream politics. It's claimed that Nehru strategically fielded his personal assistant, Kajrolkar, to obstruct Ambedkar's path in the first Lok Sabha elections. Moreover, Nehru himself purportedly campaigned against Ambedkar in the Mumbai North parliamentary seat, contributing to his defeat. Similar accusations extend to the Bhandara constituency, suggesting Nehru's interference in thwarting Ambedkar's electoral ambitions.

The confrontation between Baba Saheb and Nehru during the first Lok Sabha elections epitomized a clash of ideologies and aspirations. With Nehru's Congress dominating the political landscape, the stage was set for a showdown between two towering figures of Indian politics.

During this period, an interim government was led by Pandit Nehru, who formed the first Union Cabinet comprising members from diverse communities. Dr. Ambedkar assumed the role of Union Law Minister in this government. However, his tenure was short-lived, marked by policy disagreements, particularly regarding the Hindu Code Bill. Ambedkar's resignation from this position on 27 September 1951 underscores the rift between him and Nehru's Congress.

The political landscape of the time witnessed the burgeoning influence of Congress alongside the emergence of other political forces. Shyama Prasad Mukherjee's departure from Nehru's cabinet and the founding of the Bharatiya Jana Sangh marked a significant shift in Indian politics. Meanwhile, Ambedkar's formation of the Scheduled Castes Federation, following his earlier Independent Labor Party, signaled his commitment to advancing the interests of marginalized communities.

While allegations suggest Shyama Prasad Mukherjee's involvement in supporting Ambedkar's election, The Mooknayak refrains from confirming this claim. These intricate political maneuvers underscore the complex dynamics that shaped India's nascent democracy and laid the groundwork for future political movements.

-Translated by Geetha Sunil Pillai

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