December 3, 2018
New Delhi: A special debate on the Constitution to mark the 125th birth anniversary of its architect Babasaheb Ambedkar on the opening day of the winter session of Parliament on Thursday saw Home Minister Rajnath Singh kicking off a political storm by stating that the word ‘secular’ was the most misused word in Indian politics.
Amid protest from the Congress, Singh went on to say that Ambedkar, who is considered the father of the Constitution, didn’t find it necessary to insert the word along with ‘socialist’ in the preamble because he felt it was already in the basic nature of people. “These are values core to the Indian ethos.”
Singh said, “The principal architect of the Constitution had never thought of putting the term secularism in the preamble but it was incorporated through an amendment (by Indira Gandhi during the Emergency) in 1976.”
The home minister also objected to the use of Hindi word ‘Dharma Nirpeksha’ (non-religious) for secularism, saying “the literal translation of the secularism should be ‘Panth Nirpeksha’ (non-sectarian) and it should be regularly used as it is the official Hindi translation of secularism.”
Countering his contention immediately, Congress leader in the Lok Sabha Mallikarjun Kharge got up to argue that Ambedkar was in favour of adding the words to the preamble when the Constitution was drafted, but could not do so because “the atmosphere was not right then.”
Later, during her speech, Congress chief Sonia Gandhi alleged, “we have seen in the past few months, a total violation of the values of the Constitution.” She also did not mince words to tick off the BJP government for organising the debate, saying “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 recalled Ambedkar’s warning that “howsoever good a Constitution may be, if those implementing it were bad people, then the ultimate effect would only be bad.” She cited 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. Singh said the Modi government was committed to 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’s assertion was seen as a sort of a counter-offensive against the Congress and the Left, who have blamed Prime Minister Narendra Modi since the incidents in Dadri two months ago.