Charging the Bharatiya Janata Party with “oscillating between extreme right-wing Hindu fundamentalism and Gandhian socialism,” senior Congress leader Digvijay Singh said the saffron party was “one of the most confused parties” ideologically.
The BJP “cannot decide which way to go,” as was now reflected in the speech of the Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi, in which he hailed Shyama Prasad Mukerji (founder of the Bharatiya Jan Sangh), as “the first Indian martyr after Independence, forgetting the martyrdom of Mahatma Gandhi,” Mr. Singh asserted.
Responding to a query on how the issue of secularism would play out among the voters after the recent elevation of Mr. Modi as BJP’s election campaign committee chairman for the 2014 Lok Sabha polls, the AICC general secretary said such a remark “coming from a Chief Minister of Gujarat is absolutely shameful.” “It is this ideology of hate which killed Mahatma Gandhi,” Mr. Singh said, adding, the Congress has been fighting this ideology from the very beginning and has never compromised with it.
Mr. Singh’s observations came as he responded to some core issues in the secularism debate posed to him and to Seshadri Chari, one of the sharpest minds in the BJP, as part of the first Colloquium launched by ‘The Hindu Centre for Politics and Public Policy’, on the theme ‘Secularism and Nation Building’.
Categorically rejecting any suggestion of Mr. Modi’s elevation impinging the issue of secularism/communalism, Mr. Chari countered that the BJP National Executive’s decisions in Goa recently was at best a “political strategy” with the 2014 polls in view, and had nothing to do with the larger issue of secularism. “It is very strange that when Rahul Gandhi is elevated to the position of vice president of the Congress party, nobody discusses in terms of secularism and communalism ... these are all ... pigeonhole thinking, that inter-alia saying that Congress is secular and BJP is communal,” Mr. Chari argued.
Emphasising that the government of India’s views on secularism are not necessarily a ‘Nehruvian legacy’ as India as a whole had adopted the Westminster system of parliamentary democracy, Mr. Chari persuasively pointed out that our Constitution framers did not think it necessary to include the word ‘secularism’ in the Preamble’ as historically, “we never had a theocratic state.”
If people ‘’will vote for the BJP” under Mr. Modi’s leadership, it will be for governance, not ‘Hindutva’, affirmed Mr. Chari, even as he accused the UPA-II of “bending over backwards to appease Minorities,” through meagre special allocations for their welfare.
But Mr. Singh disagreed, stoutly defending Congress-led UPA’s implementation of the Sachar Committee report, sees it as “necessary’’ to enable a level-playing field for the socio-economically disadvantaged Muslims.
The full text of the two leaders’ interviews given to M.R. Venkatesh of The Hindu Centre for Politics and Public Policy is available on The Hindu Centre for Politics and Public Policy website.