Ram Guha has announced his choice(s): Dr. B.R. Ambedkar. There indeed are many parallels, but it sounds strange to be calling Ambedkar, who passed away over fifty years ago, an Indian Obama. Shouldn't we be calling Obama an American Ambedkar?
Anyway, here's Guha:
Ambedkar was born in a Dalit, working-class household. His father had a small job in the army, and there was no history of education in the family. Obama’s father at least had a college degree, and his mother was white. Both Obama and Ambedkar were, in their birth and social origins, anything but men of privilege — but Ambedkar was even more underprivileged. Like his American successor, the great Indian jurist made his mark by dint of exceptional courage and a still more exceptional intelligence. Like Obama, he owed his degrees, from the best universities in the world, to his brilliance and hard work alone. Like Obama, for his persistence and his achievements, Ambedkar did, in the end and after much struggle, get his rewards. Before Independence, he was a member of the highest decision-making body in British India — the viceroy’s executive council. After Independence, he became law minister in the first cabinet of free India. If we consider that slavery existed in the United States of America for a bare 200 years, while caste has existed in India for two millennia and more, then the fact that a Dalit supervised the drafting of the Indian Constitution must be reckoned to be as significant, as boundary-breaching, as earth-shattering a historical event as that of a half-black man becoming the president of the United States of America. And let us remind ourselves that the Indian, and India, took precedence in this regard — for Ambedkar became law minister sixty years before Obama became president.
Also featured in Guha-the-historian's list of possible Indian Obamas are Jawaharlal Nehru, India's first prime minister, and Nitish Kumar, Bihar's current chief minister.
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Thanks to Pradeepkumar (via e-mail) and Guru for the alert.