Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Tuesday delivered one of his strongest rebuttals to the BJP's charge of minority appeasement and he quoted Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose, a figure revered by the saffron party, to make his point.
"A commitment to equity is not appeasement. It is a mark of one's commitment to humanism," Singh said at a function organised by FICCI to commemorate the 110th birth anniversary of Netaji in the Capital on Tuesday. Singh's comments come in the backdrop of a fierce attack mounted by the BJP on the UPA government for its plans to uplift minorities, especially Muslims.
Singh has earlier spoken for a "fair share" for Muslims in government and private jobs; his 15-point programme for minorities envisages earmarking resources for them in identified social and economic schemes. On every occasion, the BJP has promptly denounced the government's intentions and accused the UPA of being driven by vote-bank politics.
It is a charge denied as frequently by the government and Singh.
On Tuesday, Singh did not repeat the denial. Instead, he sent a clear message to his critics that Netaji - with whom the BJP often associates - shared this vision for an equitable society as well. In this, Singh drew heavily from Netaji's speech as the Congress president in 1938 outlining his vision for India the prime minister said was still relevant.
"He was in favour of guaranteeing rights to all citizens. But at the same time, he stressed on taking special measures for minorities and other disadvantaged sections of society," the Prime Minister said.
"Netaji's view that all minority communities be allowed their due space in cultural as well as governmental affairs testified to his humanism and commitment to egalitarian values," he added, emphasising that equity is no appeasement but a sign of humanism.
It is the spirit of unity that he infused amongst his men that is required today; "to help us pursue a more inclusive and equitable path to social, economic progress", the Prime Minister said.
Singh also tried to drive home another side of the Indian National Army supreme commander, a deeply spiritual but equally secular man and one of the key architects of planning in India.
He also tried to bridge perceptions of the divide between Netaji and Congress leaders of the time like Mahatma Gandhi. This is significant in context of the BJP often arguing that Congress governments in Independent India did not recognise the contribution of the iconic leader in the freedom struggle due to his differences with Congress leaders.
"Much has been said about the differences between Netaji Subhash Bose with Mahatma Gandhi. But not much has been said about their common approach and vision of a free India," he said, pointing that Bose had named the INA's various brigades as Nehru Brigade and Azad Brigade.