The 2015 Republic Day celebrations will be remembered for a long time for a variety of reasons: US President Barack Obama’s visit, the controversy over Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s ‘Modi’-striped bandhgala, the decision to give lady officers certain key ceremonial roles during the Obama visit and a series of glitches that included missing glasses and umbrellas and over-the-top security arrangements. Topping this list was a Republic Day advertisement that the government published on January 26.
In that now-famous aesthetically challenged DAV advertisement, the government printed the Preamble of India's Constitution as "We the people of India, having solemnly resolved to constitute India into a Sovereign Democratic Republic...." as opposed to the version that came up after the 42nd Amendment that states: "We, The People Of India, having solemnly resolved to constitute India into a Sovereign Socialist Secular Democratic Republic and to secure to all its citizens..."
The missing words led to a furore. The information and broadcasting ministry did its best to convince that there was nothing wrong in it. Not many are convinced though and have accused the government of willfully omitting the important words. I agree that it could have been a clerical mistake, but what is appalling is how the government kept on defending the advertisement and refused to acknowledge that certain sections could be hurt by those critical omissions.
“It is true [that the] original Preamble did not contain 'socialist' and 'secular'. But then we should have used amended preamble. Preamble has been held as basic structure of the Constitution by the Supreme Court. Moreover since this government’s commitment is doubtful on both the principles to some extent the criticism is justified. Our economic policies since 1991 are going in the direction of market economy. A PIL was filed in the Supreme Court requesting deletion of socialist but court did not agree,” Dr Faizan Mustafa, vice-chancellor, NALSAR University of Law, Hyderabad, told HT.
Emboldened by the government’s adamant attitude, its ally Shiv Sena has now said that it welcomes the exclusion of the (secular and socialist) words from the Republic Day advertisement. “Though it might have been done inadvertently, it is like honouring the feelings of the people of India. If these words were deleted by mistake this time, they should be deleted from the Constitution permanently," Sena MP Sanjay Raut said on Wednesday. Raut said that the “mistake” happened only because destiny wants this to happen. “Modi is the Prime Minister of India, and his thoughts on Hindutva are strong”. Sorry Mr Raut, please speak for yourself and not for the “people of India”.
As for the BJP, it must ask its ally to shut up if it wants to convince the ‘secular’ section that there was nothing mischievous in the Republic Day advertisement omissions and prove that it is capable and willing to take everyone together in its journey.
(Views expressed are personal)