The recently divorced states of Andhra Pradesh and Telangana have locked themselves in game of constant one-upmanship. The latest episode features the question who can build a grander memorial to BR Ambedkar, and a bigger statue of the man.

 

The game so far, is dead even.

 

Andhra Pradesh chief minister Chandrababu Naidu set aside a massive Rs 210 crore to develop the Ambedkar Memorial Park in Amaravati, the state's new capital under construction. The park will house a 125-feet statue of Ambedkar, the tallest in the country.

 

But hang on a minute. Make that 'joint' tallest. That's because Telangana CM K Chandrasekhar Rao (KCR) also plans to build an equally tall, 125-feet statue of the great social reformer in the heart of Hyderabad. The proposed 34-acre Ambedkar Vanam will share real estate with the already existing NT Rama Rao (NTR) memorial on the banks of Hussain Sagar lake in the city.

 

Both governments perform the perfunctory pujas for the projects today, 14 April, to mark Ambedkar's 125th birthday.

 

 

What explains this sudden love for Ambedkar in Andhra and Telangana?

 

Chandrababu Naidu seems desperate to appease the numerically strong Malas (roughly 40% of all Dalits in the state) in coastal Andhra, and other Dalit groups who are likely to lose ownership of land as his government attempts to create a 10 lakh-acre land bank for rapid industrialisation.

 

Chandrababu Naidu seems desperate to appease the numerically strong Malas (roughly 40% of all Dalits in the state) in coastal Andhra, and other Dalit groups who are likely to lose ownership of land as his government attempts to create a 10 lakh-acre land bank for rapid industrialisation.

 

According to Kancha Ilaiah, director, Centre for Study of Social Exclusion and Inclusive Policy (CSSEIP) at Maulana Azad National Urdu University, Hyderabad, opposition parties could foment trouble inciting Malas and other Dalits against Naidu's land acquisition spree, and the corporate-led development agenda. "He is building a huge memorial for the only God of Dalits, Ambedkar, to prove that he is not anti-Dalit," he said.

 

Over in Telangana, KCR is seen as using Amdedkar as a convenient tool for rid Hyderabad of some of the prominent cultural symbols of Andhra such as the NTR memorial. "It is very difficult to suddenly rename name NTR Gardens. It can't be substituted by another name except  Ambedkar's. KCR realises that Ambedkar Vanam would serve a greater political purpose than the NTR memorial, which he views as the symbol Andhra domination," Ilaiah added.

 

Whoever builds the tallest Babasaheb statue, wins?