Lok Sabha on Monday witnessed some heated arguments after an all-out attack between the government and opposition Congress over the intolerance debate and secularism dominated the first of the two days of the special sitting ahead of Parliament’s winter session.
Home Minister Rajnath Singh launched a scathing attack on Congress on the issue of secularism saying it was the “most misused” term in the country which has led to tension in the society.
Initiating discussion in the Lok Sabha on ‘Commitment to India’s Constitution’ as part of 125th birth anniversary of BR Ambedkar, Singh said in the Lok Sabha that the architect of the Constitution had never thought of putting the term secularism in the Preamble but it was incorporated through an amendment in 1976.
“The words ‘socialist’ and ‘secular’ were incorporated in the Preamble through the 42nd Amendment of the Constitution. We have no objection. Let bygones be bygones. BR Ambedkar had never thought the necessity to incorporate it in the Preamble as these two words were part of the Constitution. It is inbuilt in the Indian system,” he said amidst protests from Congress.
Countering his contention, Congress leader in the Lok Sabha Mallikarjun Kharge objected to the Home Minister’s remarks and said Ambedkar was also in favour of putting the word in the Preamble, but could not do so due to the prevailing situation then.
Singh objected to the use of Hindi word ‘Dharma Nirpekshta’, saying the literal translation of the secularism should be ‘Panth Nirpekshta’ and it should be regularly used as it is the official Hindi translation of secularism.
“Secularism is the most misused word in the country. Its misuse should come to an end. Because of the rampant misuse of the word, there have been instances of tension in the society,” he said in the presence of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Congress chief Sonia Gandhi besides others.
He added that it was difficult to maintain social harmony because of the “rampant misuse” of the word secularism.
Asserting the Modi government’s commitment towards the safety and security of every Indian, irrespective of caste, creed or religion, Singh said everyone born in India is Indian and all are brothers.
Singh termed Lord Ram as the greatest democrat saying he ordered his wife Sita to go ‘Agni Pariksha’ after someone raised the issue.
His remarks linking the BJP government’s projects with Ambedkar’s vision invited strong reactions and jibes from Opposition benches.
Taking the dig at Rajnath Singh, Congress President Sonia Gandhi targeted the government on issue of intolerance alleging that ideals and principles of the Constitution were under threat and being attacked deliberately.
“People who never had faith in the Constitution, nor had they participated in its drafting, are now swearing by it and are laying claim to it.”
“They are now having a discussion on commitment to it. There cannot be a bigger joke than this,” she said.
She said Ambedkar had observed that howsoever good a Constitution may be, if those implementing it were bad people, then the utlimate effect would only be bad.
At a time when BJP is seeking to appropriate the legacy of Ambedkar, Gandhi also utilised Ambedkar’s praise of the Congress for its contribution in the drafting of the Constitution, indicating that the Congress could lay the rightful claim on the document.