Ambedkar played a crucial role in the making of India’s Constitution. But to say he was the Architect or the Father of the document is stretching the truth.
He was a key framer. As chairman of the drafting committee he spearheaded the process of putting final words to constitutional principles. Those principles, however, were not decided by him or his committee. In the main they were the outcomes of Nehru’s Union Constitutional Committee and Patel’s Provincial Constitutional Committee.
As soon as the Constituent Assembly adopted the Union Constitution Committee’s principles, B.N. Rau, the constitutional adviser, was asked to prepare a draft. In October 1947 Rau’s draft was turned over to the Assembly’s Drafting Committee, chaired by Ambedkar, for “scrutiny.” Ambedkar’s team polished Rau’s draft, came up with new language based on debates, and initiated some new ideas. Inside the Assembly, Ambedkar explained the principles and became their chief defender.
So, why the controversy over his role? It is due to Ambedkar’s unique background. His politics was opposed to that of Congress, the main force behind India’s Constitution. Before he joined the Assembly he opposed the whole constitution making exercise. He publicly held constitutional principles that were opposite to what he supported inside the Assembly. And after the Constitution was adopted he openly berated it.
The debate over his role became increasingly politicized. Mainstream parties needed the vote bank Ambedkar represented. They placated it by pretending to give Ambedkar greater and greater importance. So much so that any criticism of Ambedkar or his role came to be seen by that vote bank as an insult. His people opposed every disparagement ferociously, fearing that giving an inch would mean a complete reversal to days of persecution and discrimination.
An artificially braced pedestal doesn’t stand forever. The truth brings it down. Which is exactly what is happening more and more. Here is a recent example…