The three-day national executive meeting of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) began in Dehradun on Thursday with leaders, including party chief Rajnath Singh and LK Advani, collectively singing Vande Mataram at a special function to mark the end of the centenary celebrations of the national song.
The party's emphasis on keeping alive the controversy over the song was more than evident in this Uttaranchal capital with the venue of the party meet also being named Vande Mataram.
A section of minorities has objected a central government directive asking educational institutions to celebrate the centenary by singing the song in schools.
The BJP leaders gathered in the open lawns of the Pacific Hotel, the venue of the meet, at 11 a.m. A singing troupe in traditional Uttaranchal attire sang the complete song, not just the first two stanzas.
Even the constituent assembly had asked for singing of only the first two stanzas of the national song, which is objected to by a section of Muslims on grounds that it promotes idolatry that goes against their religion.
Singing along with the troupe was a gathering of 150 people comprising the BJP's biggest national and state unit leaders. These included several Muslim leaders and workers of the party.
"This is a national song and I think no one should have any qualms about singing Vande Mataram. It doesn't hurt the sentiments of minorities in any way," BJP secretary and former union minister Shahnawaz Hussian said.
"The three-member committee that decided in 1937 session of Congress party that Vande Mataram should be sung by all as a national song also had Maulana Abul Kalam Azad as one of the members. This itself is a proof that the song is not anti-Muslim," he added.
"There is no reason for a controversy over the national song. It doesn't offend any community, it is a symbol of patriotism and nationalism," said BJP vice president Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi.
The singing over, BJP office bearers began deliberations to take stock of the party affairs in different states.
"After the discussions, the BJP president will address the national executive. The party is likely to discuss the political strategy for five states -- Punjab, Uttaranchal, Himachal Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh and Manipur -- over the next two days," said BJP spokesperson Prakash Javadekar.