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New Delhi, Apr 12, 2015 (PTI) : Even as Congress has announced plans to hold year-long celebrations to commemorate the 125th birth anniversary of BR Ambedkar, Prime Minister Narendra Modi is expected to lay the foundation stone for the 'Ambedkar International Centre' here, the legacy of the Dalit icon becoming the focus of a contest between the rival parties.While BJP, which has made considerable inroads into the Dalit vote-bank in the last Lok Sabha polls, hopes to consolidate its gains, Congress is looking to reach out to its old, core base of Dalits, latching on to the symbol of the Dalit icon as it battles to come out of the morass following its worst-ever debacle in parliamentary elections.The Congress's move came amidst a realisation within that BJP was trying to "appropriate" the legacies of icons who were either ignored or perceived to have been ignored by the party.The Prime Minister was present last week as an agreement was signed between the Union Textiles Ministry, Maharashtra government and the National Textile Corporation for transfer of 12 acres of land adjacent to the Chaityabhoomi in the Indu Mills Compound in Mumbai to facilitate the construction of a memorial to Ambedkar at the spot where his last rites were performed.Meanwhile, sources in the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment, which is undertaking the setting up of the Ambedkar International Centre (AIC), said that the project named after the architect of the Indian constitution is coming up at a cost of Rs 192 crore.
"AIC would be established at Janpath in New Delhi. The National Building Construction Corporation, functioning under the Urban Development Ministry, would be the executing agency for the project," the sources said, adding that Modi is likely to lay the foundation stone for AIC on April 20.The last Lok Sabha polls saw caste barriers breaking in key north Indian states like Uttar Pradesh and Bihar, where a sizeable sections of Dalits voted for BJP.In UP, the shift of Dalit votes towards BJP served as a warning call for Congress as it found that it had failed to win support among Dalit voters despite Rahul Gandhi's visits and dining at their homes.The understanding in Congress is that BSP's hold over Dalits has loosened considerably in states other than Uttar Pradesh and they are still not that strongly behind BJP. The party feels that increasing focus on Ambedkar can help it get back their "traditional Dalit support base"."We have to erase the impression created by some parties that Congress has not been that kind to Ambedkar's legacy. To say that he is on the other side is not correct," a Congress leader said.RSS on the other hand is seeking to project Ambedkar as a "nationalist" leader with a "holistic" view as it brings out a publication to mark his 125th birth anniversary.RSS mouthpieces, 'Organiser' and 'Panchjanya', are coming out with a "Collector's edition" of his writings as well as those written on him by his followers and critics in a bid to project Ambedkar as a leader with a "holistic" view.It said that the special edition would be a tribute to the "nationalist" leader and his contributions in every sphere.Congress for its part has lined up year-long celebrations beginning April 14, Ambedkar's birthday, to honour the architect of the Constitution.A committee with party chief Sonia Gandhi as the chairperson and Rahul Gandhi as the co-chairperson has been formed to decide as to the plans for the commemoration, which has former Union minister Sushilkumar Shinde as its vice- chairperson.Also, Congress MP Bhalchandra Mungekar has demanded that the Centre issue a postage stamp and gold coins weighing five and 10 grams to mark the 125th birth anniversary year of Ambedkar.There is a view within the party that Congress could be a beneficiary of BSP's loosening grip over Dalit votes in states other than Uttar Pradesh.For instance, Punjab, where Assembly elections are due before February, 2017, has seen BSP's vote share drop to just 1.9 per cent in the 2014 Lok Sabha polls from 5.75 per cent in the 2009 elections.In the run-up to the Lok Sabha polls, BJP had prominently displayed Ambedkar's pictures, which had riled the state unit of BSP. 
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