New Delhi: “India first” is the only religion of the government and the Constit-ution is the only “holy book” for it, Prime Minister Narendra Modi emphasised on Friday, a statement made at a time when a nationwide debate on “intolerance” is raging and his “silence” on the matter has been criticised in political circles.
Adopting a markedly conciliatory tone towards the Opposition, the PM in his 70-minute reply to the debate in the Lok Sabha on the importance and effectiveness of the Constitution, ruled out any review of the Constitution.
He said the ruling side does not believe in forcing decisions through majority, but in working through consensus. The two-day debate was held to commemorate Constitution Day. Mr Modi also rejected the Congress’ contention that the NDA government was trying to deny credit to or was undermining the role of leaders like Jawaharlal Nehru, to whom he paid rich tribute.
Constitution is ‘dharma granth'
The Parliament unanimously adopted a resolution hailing the contribution of Dr Ambedkar and the other founding fathers of the Constitution. With his government under attack on the "intolerance" issue during the two-day debate, Prime Minister Narendra Modi 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 reply, during which the Opposition members questioned his "silence" on the issue. However, Mr Modi did not specifically refer to any recent incidents arising out of intolerance, nor did he touch on the debate raging in the country over such incidents.
Mr Modi’s conciliatory tone came on the day he had invited Congress president Sonia Gandhi and his predecessor, Dr Manmohan Singh, to tea in an apparent bid to seek a consensus on issues in Parliament, including passage of the Goods and Services Tax Bill.
On Thursday, the first day of the debate, Union home minister Rajnath Singh had said that secularism was the "most misused" word in Indian politics and sought an end to its abuse. Congress president Sonia Gandhi had hit back at the government, saying the ideals of the Constitution were under attack now and it was a "joke" that those who had no role in the making of the Constitution were now discussing it and demanding a review.
Finance minister Arun Jaitley on Friday utilised the debate in the Rajya Sabha to attack the Congress and cited Hitler’s actions in Germany in the 1930s and the "subverting of the Constitution" in connection with the imposition of Emergency in 1975. The "dictatorship was at its worst" then as even right to life and liberty was suspended, he said.
"The country will run by the Constitution and it should be run only 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," Mr Modi said.
Invoking Mahatma Gandhi, B.R. Ambedkar and Jawaharlal Nehru repeatedly, he underlined that the "idea of India" is reflected by aspects like "ahimsa parmo dharma (non-violence is a supreme duty)", "sarv dharma sambhav (equal respect to all religions)" and "Vasudhaiv Kutumbakam (the 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 society... It is like an autopilot corrective arrangement and this is our strength," the Prime Minister said.
Asserting that the thrust of his government is on "sab ka saath (cooperation with all)", he said, "No section of 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 1,600 dialects and comprises people who are believers in God as well as atheists, Mr Modi said, "All should get justice. There should be harmony."
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