The grandsons of Dr BR Ambedkar have hit out at the Bharatiya Janata Party government in Uttar Pradesh after it ordered all its state departments and High Court benches in Lucknow and Allahabad to use Ambedkar’s middle name “Ramji” in documents and records, News18 reported.

Prakash and Anand Ambedkar called the move “nothing but vote bank politics by the BJP”.

“The BJP wants to have their own agenda before the 2019 elections,” Prakash Ambedkar told the news channel. “My sense is, close to the elections, they might try to tell the voters that Ambedkar was also a ‘Ram bhakt’.”

Anand Ambedkar said: “Why bring in Ramji to his name now? What political motives do you have?”

He added that the government did not contact the family or inform them about the decision to use Ambedkar’s full name. He said his grandfather was proud of using his middle name Ramji, because he was “very proud of his father Ramji Maloji Sakpal who was in the British Indian Army and as a common practice in Maharastra adopted his name”.

Anand Ambedkar added that his grandfather signed his full name, Bhimrao Ramji Ambedkar, in Marathi but in other languages, used only the initials BR Ambedkar, the News18 report said.

The family has not ruled out taking legal action against the government’s decision.

The BJP has defended the decision, and Uttar Pradesh Governor Ram Naik – who made the recommendation to the government to issue the directive – justified it saying “Ramji” was Ambedkar’s middle name and Hindi-speaking states had been writing his name incorrectly.

However, the Dalit community, several Opposition parties and even a BJP MP have criticised the order. “It is an individual’s freedom to decide how he wants to be known,” Udit Raj, the BJP MP from North West Delhi, told ANI. “Why create a controversy unnecessarily?”

Samajwadi Party chief Akhilesh Yadav said the government should follow Ambedkar’s path instead of altering his name, while Bahujan Samaj Party President Mayawati said the step was just an attempt to get “fake and cheap popularity”, even as “Babasaheb’s followers are being inflicted with atrocities”.

Congress leader Surendra Rajput said, “It will be better if the BJP works on saving and strengthening the Constitution. Ambedkar cannot be eulogised by weakening the Constitution.”