India First

Faced with criticism he was soft on Hindutva hardliners, PM Narendra Modi stressed that as head of the government, he was obligated to ensure the primacy of the Constitution and rein in those making communal statements. “This country can only be run in accordance with the Constitution. It is the expression of the ethos the country has followed for thousands of years, and reflects hopes and aspirations of the common man. The country cannot be governed by disregarding its tenets. No one can take law into his hands and nobody can discriminate against anyone on grounds of faith.Those making irresponsible statements should remember that being the head of the government, it's my responsibility to determine how it functions,“ Modi said, rejecting the “soft-on-communalism“ charge against the Centre as “imaginary“.
Replying to a debate on the motion of thanks on the President's address in Lok Sabha, the PM said, “I have repeatedly said my government has only one religion, the one which puts India above everything else. It treats the Constitution as its sole scripture and its devotion is only to the country . It worships only the cause of the welfare of all the 1.25 billion citizens. It's geared to achieve the objective of `sabka saath, sabka vikas'.“ PM Modi also said he was opposed to the imposition of unity, saying this country was defined by diversity . “We have been defined by unity in diversity . This has been our strength and it is only in India that diverse faiths can flourish,“ he said.
Although just a reiteration, the comments take on significance because it came against the backdrop of a flurry of statements from Hindutva hardliners and the resultant perception that the Modi government was being indulgent.The PM had spoken in a similar vein while addressing a gathering of Christians on February 17.
His speech on Friday stood out because it was the first time he had addressed the concern about his government's stance on communalism in Parliament.
During the winter session of Parliament, the government had rejected the opposition's demand that the PM spell out his stance on the VHP's reconversion campaign, resulting in quite a few sittings of Rajya Sabha being washed out.
However, even as he dealt with the issue at some length on Friday , the PM resented the charge that his government had failed to leash Hindutva hardliners, calling it a “figment of imagination“. He said while the poison of communalism, which has caused havoc, was allowed to spread for political reasons for a long time, it was his government which was being sought to be put in the dock over it. He also told a member of the opposition who had challenged his statement that he could effectively rebut him but was not doing so because he did not wish to waste time. Modi also recalled the speech he gave in Patna on October 27, 2013, minutes after terrorists had bombed a rally killing half-a-dozen people and injuring several others.
“Blood was flowing amid gun shots and bomb explosions. Innocents had been killed at a gathering of lakhs. The atmosphere was filled with hate. In such moments, you speak what you honestly believe in. And on that day , I appealed to Hindus and Muslims that they had fought long enough without gaining anything. I told them that they should fight their poverty instead of each other,“ the PM said.

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