Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Friday said 'India first’ is the only religion and Constitution the only ‘holy book’ for his government which is committed to working for all sections and religions, a statement that comes in the midst of a raging debate on intolerance, even as he adopted a conciliatory tone towards Opposition.
He ruled out any review of the Constitution and reached out to the Opposition saying the ruling side does not believe in forcing decisions through majority but believes in working through consensus.
Replying to a two-day long debate in the Lok Sabha to commemorate the Constitution Day and the 125th birth anniversary of Dr B R Ambedkar, 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 tributes.
The House later unanimously adopted a resolution hailing the contribution of Ambedkar and other founding fathers of the Constitution.
With his government facing attack on the issue of ’intolerance’ during the two-day debate, he asserted that diversity is the strength of India and it needs to be nurtured.
“For the government, the only dharma i s ‘India first, the only dharma granth (holy book) is the Constitution,” the Prime Minister asserted in his 70-minute reply to the debate during which opposition members and questioned his “silence” over the issue.
However, Mr. Modi did not specifically refer to any recent incidents arising out of intolerance or nor did he touch on the debate that is raging in the country over it.
Invites Manmohan, Sonia for discussion
Mr. Modi’s conciliatory tone also came on a day as he had > invited Congress president Sonia Gandhi and his predecessor Manmohan Singh for tea, in an apparent bid to seek a consensus on issues in Parliament, including passage of the GST bill.
During the debate on Thursday, Home Minister Rajnath Singh said secularism is the “most misused” word in Indian politics and sought an end to its abuse.
Congress President Sonia Gandhi hit back at the government saying the ideals of 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 cited Hitler’s actions in Germany in 1930s for the imposition of Emergency in 1975 by “subverting” the Constitution . 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 Nehru repeatedly, he underlined that the ‘Idea of India’ is reflected by the aspects like ‘Ahimsa 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 an ’auto pilot corrective arrangement' and this is our strength,” the Prime Minister.
Asserting that the thrust of his government is on sab ka 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 athiests, he said, “all should get justice. There should be harmony.”
Rules out review of Constitution
“There are people who believe in the God and those who do not believe in the God. There are people who do idol worship..All have different views. They have aspirations and expectations which have to be accommodated,” Mr. Modi said, noting that Ambedkar had taken these aspects into consideration while framing the Constitution.
Allaying apprehensions in some sections, the Prime Minister asserted that there will be no review of the Constitution as its framers, like Ambedkar, have done an extraordinary and visionary task.
Describing the Constitution as a “social document” which is perfect, he said there should be maximum propagation about it among the masses as its provisions are the marg darshak (guide).
With Congress president Sonia Gandhi and her son Rahul Gandhi listening keenly, Mr. Modi also showered praise on Nehru, saying he was a great personality, and rejected the perception that the NDA government was trying to deny credit to him.
“Today’s topic of discussion is not about ‘I’ and ‘you’ but it is about ‘We’...I have said from the Red Fort (in Independence Day address) and I am repeating that all previous governments and former Prime Ministers have made efforts and have contributed in making the country great,” he said.
“Hard work of many leaders has gone into shaping India.States also have played a role...There may be complaints that some government has done less but nobody can say that previous governments have done nothing,” the Prime Minister said.
Answering questions raised by the Congress over holding of the discussion now instead of January 26 when the Indian Republic came into being, Mr. Modi said, “26 November is a historical occasion and our intention is not to downplay the importance of January 26. We celebrate January 26 because of November 26.”