Faced with criticism that he was soft on Hindutva hardliners, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi stressed that as the head of the government, he was obligated to ensure the primacy of the Constitution and rein in those making provocative 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 is my responsibility to determine how it functions,” Modi said even as he rejected the “soft -on-communalism” charge against his government as “imaginary.”
Replying to a debate on the motion of thanks on the President's address in Lok Sabha, Modi reiterated that he was committed to follow the Constitution, not to discriminate among people on grounds of religion and work for the development of all. “I have repeatedly said that 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. Its style of functioning is geared to achieve objective of `sabka sath, sabka vikas',” Modi said.
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 indulgent of them. The PM had spoken in a similar vein while addressing a gathering of Christians on February 17. His speech stood out because it was the first time he had addressed the concern about his government's stance on communalism in Parliament.