New Delhi: Facing attack over 'intolerance', Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Friday said 'India first' is the only religion of his government and Constitution is the only holy book while asserting his commitment to work for the welfare of people of all sections and religions.
He ruled out any review of the Constitution and reached out to the Opposition by saying that the ruling side does not believe in forcing decisions using its majority but believes in working through consensus.
Replying to a two-day long debate on the Constitution in Lok Sabha, Modi also rejected the Congress contention that the NDA government was trying to deny due credit or undermining the role of leaders like Jawahar Lal Nehru, to whom he paid rich tributes.
Speaking in the backdrop of attack over 'intolerance', he asserted that diversity is the strength of India and it needs to be nurtured.
"For the government, the only 'dharma' is 'India first, the only 'dharma granth' (holy book) is the Constitution," the Prime Minister asserted in his about 70-minute reply to the debate during which opposition members raked up the issue of 'intolerance' and questioned his silence over the issue.
"The country will run by the Constitution and it should be run by the Constitution. India has fundamentally grown on this ideology. The country has the internal energy amassed over thousands of years which gives it the stimulus and capacity to deal with crises," Modi said.
Invoking Mahatma Gandhi, B R Ambedkar and Nehru repeatedly, he underlined that the 'Idea of India' is reflected by the aspects like 'Ahinsa Parmo Dharma (non-violence is supreme duty), 'Sarv Dharma Sambhav' (equal respect to all religions) and 'Vasudev Kutumbakam' (entire world is a family).
"Our country has been there for thousands of years. Shortcomings do come. Even vices do crop up. But there is something that keeps us going. Even when vices come up, solutions also emerge from within the society... It is like 'auto pilot corrective arrangement and this is our strength," the Prime Minister.
Asserting that the thrust of his government is on 'sabka sath' (cooperation from all), he said, "no section of the society should lag behind. If any part of the body is paralysed, the body cannot be called healthy. We have to empower people from all sections, be it any community, region or language."
Noting that India has 12 religions, 122 languages and 1600 dialects and comprises people who are believers in God as well as athiest, he said, "all should get justice. There should be harmony."
While praising Nehru, Modi narrated an instance when Ram Manohar Lohia contested the then Prime Minister's figures on some issue. "Pandit Nehru said he would not challenge Lohia. Such was the greatness of Pandit Nehru," he said.
The Prime Minister said that everyone including the poor people and workers have worked to make this country. "We have to accept their contribution," he said, adding "we must focus on dignity of India and unity of India."
He said that the political "dal-bhakti" had unfortunately increased and now everything is seen with a political colour. Modi agreed with Sonia Gandhi's contention that it is not enough to have a good Constitution as those in power should implement it properly also.
"Preserving the sanctity of the Constitution is the responsibility of all of us. The government may be formed on the basis of majority but decisions have to be taken on the basis of consensus," he said.
"There should be consensus, at least efforts should be made for consensus. And if these fail, then the issue of majority-minority would come in. In this House, we are not going to force any decision but make efforts for consensus... If nothing helps then the ultimate is majority-minority," the Prime Minister said.
"For us, the Constitution assumes more importance. India is full of is so much of diversity and there are different aspirations and it is our responsibility to fulfill them," he said.
Hailing Ambedkar, Modi said the "son of a Dalit woman" had suffered a lot during his life time but he did not allow any "bitterness" to reflect in the Constitution.
"What a great person he was! He consumed the entire 'zehar' (poison) and left us with such 'amrit' (elixir)... There is no feeling of revenge (by Ambedkar in the Constitution) but an effort to bind all. So it is a natural feeling to bow before him," he said.
He underlined the need for popularising the importance of the Constitution so that everyone should be aware of it....