We will never feel the need to change the basic structure of the Constitution: Rajnath Singh

No question of ending reservations, says Defence Minister; says simultaneous polls will surely happen, while more persuasion needed for UCC; adds first phase voter turnout dip caused by INDIA supporters

Updated - April 25, 2024 07:19 pm IST

Published - April 25, 2024 06:57 pm IST

Union Defence Minister Rajnath Singh.

Union Defence Minister Rajnath Singh. | Photo Credit: PTI

Defence Minister Rajnath Singh has been travelling non-stop as he campaigns for BJP candidates in the ongoing Lok Sabha election. He spoke to Nistula Hebbar on a range of issues while on a day-long trip to Vishakhapatnam.

The voter turnout in the first phase has slipped and is said to be a cause of worry for the BJP.

It’s not an issue of concern for us, because we believe that a majority of those who want the current government to continue turned out to vote. Those who felt that the INDI Alliance is not in a position to form a government, they possibly felt that it was of no use to vote.

There is talk that this may reflect complacency among BJP supporters on the return of a BJP government.

Some may think that, but it is our duty to reach out to everyone as participants in the democratic process, to inform people of our achievements till now and at the same time create a political awareness among people about the democratic exercise. I have always believed that when we campaign, we should also work towards creating a political awareness about democracy among people, so that they too can analyse as to which political party is best suited to govern the country.

In your party’s manifesto, for which you headed the committee, a Uniform Civil Code (UCC), and One Nation One Election (ONOE) have emerged as new ideological projects.

I have spoken of ONOE in many campaign stops during these polls itself. I received a tremendous response from the people, so this is definitely going to happen. As far as UCC is concerned, those who have any misconceptions against it, we will try and persuade them. All progressive countries, in my view, have and should work towards a UCC.

But a Parliamentary Standing Committee headed by the BJP’s Sushil Modi is of the view that tribal communities should be exempt from the UCC.

Yes. Tribal communities should be exempt and they will be.

How is it a “uniform” code then, with exemptions?

There are some tribals who are particularly vulnerable, where governments have not been able to reach in the way that they have other communities. Their cultural and social interests have to be especially taken care of. Also, there are no blocks to people observing their culture and traditions, and religious customary rituals.

Many marginal communities seem to be apprehensive of a change in the Constitution and reservations, especially after BJP leaders said that the party needed 400 seats to effect it.

There is no question of ending reservations. I firmly believe that we need reservations. I also firmly hold that we will never feel the need to change the basic structure of the Constitution. If, on certain matters, there is a feeling in the country that certain issues need to be addressed, then that can be done. Amendments to the Constitution have been done under Congress governments in the past, while BJP governments have been more circumspect, and done amendments only to strengthen the integrity of institutions.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s remarks in Rajasthan have been described as “hate speech” by the Opposition. What is your view?

There should not be any discrimination on the basis of any religion. Our Constitution also does not allow it. But you must have seen in the past that the Supreme Court had quashed reservations based on religion proposed by the erstwhile government of united Andhra Pradesh. One should not go against the mansha (intention) of the Constitution. These people [the Congress] were the ones who brought in the Ranganath Commission, the Sachar Committee reports et al, there were recommendations that within the 27% reservations for OBCs, 8% were to be given to minorities, with 6% for Muslims. This is when certain Muslim backward castes are already included in the list of OBCs and getting reservations.

As Defence Minister, what has been your most challenging issue, and the most rewarding?

If there is a clash or a war-like situation, it is challenging, but our forces responded very well. As far as our aims are concerned, I was particularly concerned with the indigenisation of our defence items, in which we have moved forward, although there is much more to do.

But the India-China border issue remains unresolved.

Look, talks are still ongoing, and constructively, and there is no fresh tension that has come up.

There has been disocontent expressed about the Agnipath scheme in States like Uttarakhand and among the youth.

There is no real reason for any apprehensions over this scheme. It is the Opposition that is creating this talk and fear. If at the age of 18, a young boy joins under the Agnipath-Agniveer scheme and leaves with an intermediate certificate and that of being well skilled, there are many institutions where there is provision for reservations in jobs for them. At the time of getting out of this programme, at the young age of 22 to 23 years, they will leave with around ₹15 lakh, and if they want to go into the forces, there are paramilitary forces which they can join, as have other big industrial houses.

The Opposition alleges that the Enforcement Directorate and the Central Bureau of Investigation are being used to harass them and forcing their leaders to join the BJP.

The BJP does not do that, it’s the agencies who investigate cases, and if they don’t trust agencies, they have the courts, which, I might add, have not given relief on these cases.

There is apprehension being expressed by old-timers in the BJP that too many outsiders are being taken in and rewarded, and are changing the basic character of the party.

There is no such thing. Every party wants to expand and increase its strength, and I believe this is why the BJP is the largest political party in the world.

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