Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader LK Advani on Thursday attempted to publicly mend his strained ties with the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) as he praised the organisation for its secular credentials.
Speaking at a function in New Delhi to release two books on secularism, Advani recalled his conversation with second RSS head MS Golwalkar.
"I asked him: Are we a secret organisation because we don't have a constitution and are we secular?
"Frankly, I did not know this word before that day when I read about it in the newspapers," said Advani.
"Guruji said, 'You should know that Britain has no constitution, so is it a secret organisation? We are a family."
About secularism, he said, "Theocracy is alien to Indian ethos and culture. In this country we believe that all paths lead to god. We have accepted even atheists as rishis (sages)."
Advani has been nominated by his party as its prime ministerial candidate for the next Lok Sabha elections and the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) has endorsed the move. But Advani clearly is keen to ensure support from the RSS in his prime ministerial aspirations.
While the RSS seems to have given a green signal to the BJP move, there is still some tension between him and the organisation.
Advani's relationship with the RSS were strained, especially after his June 2005 visit to Pakistan where he termed Mohammad Ali Jinnah as a secular leader and lauded him. Advani had to later step down as BJP president.
At the book release function, former Indian Council of Historical Research (ICHR) director Kapil Kumar made a reference to Jinnah but Advani, speaking after the historian, made no mention of it at all.
Instead, he recalled his Somnath-to-Ayodhya Rath Yatra in 1990 to campaign for the construction of a Ram temple at the site of the Babri Masjid in Ayodhya.
Taking a dig at the Indian communists, Advani said: "Only we can be their real enemy, for we are committed to the nation and patriotism."
He was responding to a statement from the Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) describing the BJP as its real enemy.