Winter session: Modi says Constitution will bind us all, praises past governments
The Prime Minister insisted that 'dignity for India' and 'unity for India' were the Constitution's main ideals, on a day when the Centre and the Opposition traded blows on secularism and intolerance.
6.07 pm: As Lok Sabha Speaker Sumitra Mahajan called for a conclusion to the session, Modi expounded on the "idea of India", by using a series of shlokhas and sayings that called for non-violence, peace, unity and patriotism. This was the first time he was addressing the winter session this year. He did not, however, touch upon the issue of intolerance as the Opposition had demanded.
6.00 pm: A large part of Modi’s speech hinged around a call for consensus rather than conflict. He started out by praising other governments, taking about a “we” not an “I” approach, then mentioned the contributions and even quoted past Congress leaders including Jawaharlal Nehru, in addition to his praise for BR Ambedkar and others who drafted the Constitution. He also broached the idea that it was important to bring rights to everyone, including the poor and Dalits.
5.20 pm: Modi started his speech by emphasising on the values of the BR Ambedkar, the Constitution and the logic behind Constitution Day. "Dignity for India" and "unity for India" were the two ideals that the Constitution is based on, Modi said. He added that Constitution has the power to bind people, so it is important that people are made aware of its contents. Constitution Day, which the government had declared on November 26, should not be limited to the Lok Sabha alone, he said, it should become a part of public discourse and people should keep discussing the issues it raises.
The Prime Minister took a conciliatory tone, praising all the governments who had contributed to India's history, saying it would be incorrect to discredit other governments. He also said that the spirit of discussion did not lie in giving his speech a special position in the day's proceedings, but to value the contributions of all the members of Parliament.
5.05 pm: Prime Minister Narendra Modi has started his speech to conclude the second day of the Parliament's winter session.
3.38 pm: Union Human Resource Development Smriti Irani took the floor and insisted that the Aryan invasion theory in India should be done away with, even quoting BR Ambedkar having made the same assertion. Instead, she argued for making Sanskrit the official language of India. Irani was arguing against senior Congress leader Mallikarjun Kharge's statement in the House on Thursday, where he made a reference to the Aryan theory, saying Dalits have been oppressed for 5,000 years, and that they were the original inhabitants of the country and have always stayed here.
3.35 pm: Prime Minister Narendra Modi is expected to address the House after 4.30 pm.
3.25 pm: "This meeting is happening after public pressure. This is not the way he functions," said Rahul Gandhi, after Congress leaders Sonia Gandhi and Manmohan Singh were invited to Prime Minister Narendra Modi's house for a meeting on Friday. While Rahul Gandhi will not be present at the meeting, it might be a significant one as the government has been trying to appease Opposition parties in order to pass several important legislations, including the Goods and Services Tax Bill.
3.00 pm: The Indian Express reported that Congress President Sonia Gandhi and former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh will meet Prime Minister Narendra Modi at his Delhi home at 7 pm, where Finance Minister Arun Jaitley will also be present. This is the first time Gandhi and Modi will meet after the 2014 Lok Sabha polls.
2.55 pm: Mehbooba Mufti, president of the Jammu and Kashmir Peoples Democratic Party, added to the intolerance debate by taking a moderate position. Mufti said India is a tolerant country, and compared it with violence taking place in Syria and Pakistan, where Muslims were killing each other, she said. She asked that the world learn from the way in which Muslims and those of other religions co-exists in India. She hailed those historians, scientists and filmstars who raised their voices against incidents against Muslims in Dadri, and Udhampur, saying they were acceptable ways to express dissent as they were non-violent.
However, she criticised those who slammed the dissenters by asking them to go to Pakistan, saying no one had the right to ask their countrymen to leave. She criticised politicians for making issues out of things when the community at large, she said, was largely peaceful. She added that they should get out of this communalism-secularism debate, and talk about development instead.
1.10 pm: The Rajya Sabha has been adjourned for lunch till 2.30 pm. Here's a recap of what has been said so far:
1 pm: Leader of the Opposition in the Rajya Sabha, Ghulam Nabi Azad, lashed out at the Centre over growing intolerance in the country during a speech in the upper house on Friday. He also rejected Leader of the House Arun Jaitley's remarks that the intolerance debate and the returning of awards by intellectuals was a manufactured dissent. Azad said that the Congress party spreads love and not dissent. He added that intolerance flows down from the top.
12.15 pm: Leader of House in the Rajya Sabha Arun Jaitley spoke in the upper house, where he attacked the Congress party on the Constitution debate.
11. 30 am: Jaitley hit back at Congress president Sonia Gandhi for saying that those who had no contribution to the making of Constitution are discussing it today.
Gandhi had said that the history of the Constitution is closely linked with the freedom movement, which the Congress played a major role in.
10.50 am: The prime minister has invited Congress president Sonia Gandhi and his predecessor Dr Manmohan Singh for tea this evening after the adjournment of the House, reported ANI. Naidu confirmed the development, saying that Modi wants to discuss the bills pending in Parliament.
The Centre and the Congress are at loggerheads over crucial legislations such as the Goods and Services Tax (GST) Bill, reported PTI. Finance Minister Arun Jaitley had said on Thursday that the prime minister is willing to speak to everyone to get the landmark indirect tax law through.
10.30 am: Prime Minister Narendra Modi will intervene and conclude the debate on “Commitment to the Constitution” on Friday, parliamentary affairs minister Venkaiah Naidu told ANI. The debate, which began on Thursday, created a stir in the House when home minister Rajnath Singh said that the architect of the Constitution, Dr BR Ambedkar, did not find it necessary to insert the words “socialist” and “secular” into the Preamble. Singh said these ideals are “already in our basic nature” and added that “secular” is the most misunderstood word in the country. Singh’s comments drew sharp criticism from the Opposition, with Congress president Sonia Gandhi leading the attack against the Centre.
Naidu dismissed the Opposition’s criticism, saying that nobody is questioning secularism. “Secularism is abused, that’s what has been said,” he said. “India secular by nature. Secularism is very much there in our genes. Some people may make statements, [but] that should not detract our attention. Some people are unnecessarily trying to score brownie political points on the issue of secularism,” he added.
Naidu also said that the Centre is in touch with the Congress and there will be some discussions on the Goods and Service Tax Bill on Friday. “[We are] confident we’ll be able to come to some sort of agreement,” he added.