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27 Nov. 2015 11:59 PM IST

It appeared that the BJP was not interested in steering clear of controversies which was indicated on the first day of the current winter session of parliament when senior BJP leader and union home minister Rajnath Singh caused a huge uproar when he said the word ‘secularism’ mentioned in it had been “misused”. Initiating discussion on ‘Commitment to India’s Constitution’ as part of 125th birth anniversary of B.R. Ambedkar, Rajnath Singh said 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. Congress president Sonia Gandhi , who spoke after the Home Minister, mounted a counter-offensive while highlighting the role of Ambedkar and the Congress in drafting the Constitution. “Today is a day of happiness but there is also pain. The principles that inspired us for decades, a danger is lurking over them. They are being deliberately attacked,” she said. “People who have no faith in the Constitution, who have not contributed to its making, they are talking about it repeatedly, and are trying to appropriate it. There cannot be a bigger joke.” Delhi High Court Chief Justice Rajinder Sachar termed it “nonsensical” since the BJP said the word was incorporated in the Preamble later. He said it was not about when the two words’ secular, socialits were incorporated, but whether it is part of the Constitution or not. Eminent poet Ashok Vajpeyi too lambasted the ruling party, saying it only has “dishonoured” the word most and said it to be replaced with ‘sarv dharma sambhav’ (broadly meaning equality of all religions). Rajnath’s statement doused any hopes that the government was keen to start the winter session on a hopeful note by getting the opposition on board to pass important legislations such as the GST bill. Instead, his statement conveyed the message, that the government was in no mood to reach out to the opposition. In another big surprise, prime minister Narendra Modi, who spoke for an hour on the issue, ruled out any review of the Constitution and reached out to the Opposition by saying, that the ruling side does not believe in forcing decisions using its majority but believes in working through consensus. To show that he was serious about doing business through consensus, Modi went further in praising the country’s first prime minister Jawaharlel Nehru in recalling that when Ram Manohar Lohia told him that his policies were not working, Nehru said, “I cannot deny those facts.” Modi said Nehru’s response to Lohia actually reflected his maturity. Modi’s outreach and the tone adopted by his ministers was a complete departure from the past sessions when the government would openly flaunt its numerical strength in the Lok Sabha to dismiss the opposition’s demands and objections, overlooking the critical fact that the NDA is in a minority in the Rajya Sabha. Perhaps the Bihar defeat has finally brought a realisation, that majority in parliament alone cannot be the only factor for an inclusive India. Modi’s conciliatory move may have earned accolades but he needs to carry forward with a clear voice against the politics of division and here, he would need more than goodwill; it would actually demand a political will to become India’s most popular prime minister in decades.

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