New Delhi: Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Thursday took a veiled dig at Congress Vice President Rahul Gandhi's visit to Somnathh temple in election-bound Gujarat, saying some political parties who were earlier seeking votes in the name of Dalit icon "Baba Saheb" Bhimrao Ambdedkar were now remembering "Baba Bolenath" -- Lord Shiva.
Inaugurating the Ambedkar International Centre here a day after the nation observed his December 6 death anniversary, Modi said the government had realized Baba Saheb's dream of an inclusive India that gives equal opportunities to every citizen irrespective of caste, creed and faith.
Read: A question of faith as Rahul Gandhi visits Gujarat's Somnath temple
"You will be surprised to know that some 60 per cent beneficiaries of the government's self-employment loan scheme that transformed the meaning of jobs in the country are Dalits, backwards and tribals. Till now, some 9.75 crore loan (applications) have been accepted and people have been given credits worth over Rs 4 lakh crore," Modi said.
"Political parties who have been seeking votes in the name of Babasahib won't even know that. Anyway, such people nowadays cannot remember Baba Saheb but are seeing Baba Bolenath," he said, apparently referring to the political row kicked by Gandhi's visit to the famous Somnath temple, dedicated to Lord Shiva, in Gujarat.
"Attempts to erase Baba Saheb Ambedkar's role failed, he has been more influential in the minds of people, much more than the family (Gandhi family) for which all this was done," he added.
Ahead of the Gujarat assembly polls, Gandhi's visit to the temple hogged headlines last week as BJP supporters on social media accused the Congress leader of lying about being a devotee of Lord Shiva after it was reported that he had registered as a non-Hindu in the temple.
Even the BJP sought clarification from him. "Why should there be a secretive air around Rahul Gandhi? He is one of the most important political persons in the Indian scenario. For Rahul Gandhi and Congress, religion is a matter of convenience and not devotion. Rahul Gandhi must answer this," said the BJP's Sambit Patra.
At the inauguration of the Ambedkar centre, the prime minister said his vision of New India by 2022 was the one "Ambedkar had dreamed about".
"Everyone with get equal opportunities, equal rights. An India free from the shackles of casteism. An India that moves ahead with the power of technology. An inclusive India that moves ahead with all and developes with all."
He said centre for Socio Economic Transformation was also a part of this vision and "will be an important centre for research on social and economic issues and will function as a think-tank for inclusive growth, and related socio-economic matters".
The Prime Minister said the country was indebted to Ambedkar for his contributions to nation-building.
"The government wants more and more people, and especially the youth, to learn about his vision and ideas."
Quoting from Ambedkar's address to the Constituent Assembly in December 1946, the Prime Minister said despite his struggles, the author of India's constitution had an inspirational vision for the nation to overcome its problems.
"We have still not been able to fulfil the vision of Ambedkar. Today's generation has the capability and the potential to eradicate social evils. We should make our political democracy, a social democracy as well.
"Over the last three to three and a half years, the union government has worked towards fulfilling this vision of social democracy. Initiatives taken by the Government include Jan Dhan Yojana, Ujjwala Yojana, Swachh Bharat Mission, insurance schemes, Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana and the recently launched Saubhagya Yojana.