The issue of another Union minister sparking a row by speaking up on a serious subject in a public forum, not in Parliament or at a party conference, was set at rest with an apology of sorts. Life moves on. But ministers speaking out of turn reveals a mindset that goes beyond acceptable limits of normal behaviour. If a junior minister sees the need for a change in our Constitution’s foundational principle of secularism, those in power can’t duck the issue by merely saying they disassociate themselves from his comments. That’s not how a responsible government functions in a democracy, particularly of the complex kind we have sustained over several decades of political strife.
The mindset of the rulers is such they’ve made it a habit of responding to every comment they regard as an insult or a challenge from the Opposition. They seem to believe in settling scores or pushing their ideological agenda at every turn and in every forum. While the Opposition is accustomed to making a noise to draw attention, those in government have far more serious tasks. Ministers can’t simply go around making loud statements that make no sense, as the minister of state for home did recently in offering the viewpoint that if doctors go on strike they should be classified as Naxalites and should expect to be killed by the State. A crasser idea couldn’t have stemmed from someone expected to handle matters of state security and governance. It’s becoming harder to forgive politicians for this inexplicable tendency to put their foot in their mouth. Those in government can’t afford to go on in this cavalier manner.