A two-day conclave of top BJP leaders opened on Sunday with party chief Rajnath Singh seeking to initiate a new debate on the definition of secularism.
Reminiscent of BJP’s PM candidate L.K. Advani’s coining of the term — pseudo secularism — to counter the coming together of non-BJP parties on the plank of opposing communalism in 1990s, Rajnath wanted a constitutional bar on use of the term — dharmanirpeksh — when the word in the official Hindi translation of the Constitution’s Preamble was panthnirpeksh.
Rajnath’s remark was seen as his re-assertion of his USP vis-à-vis the RSS and the BJP as the ideological quotient when the buzz is that the BJP is getting softer, more centrist, less Hindutva as the just-won elections in Karnataka had shown.
Rajnath said there was a world of difference between the two terms — as panthnirpeksh means a nation neutral to any faith or sect while dharmanirpeksh, which is a currently popular political term, means a nation devoid of righteous approach or eternal values. He said the inappropriate use of dharmanirpeksh in politics and general discourse went against the national symbols and tradition.
“If dharma is present in the national emblem, national flag, and in the supreme seat of Parliament, how can the entire establishment of India be neutral to dharma or dharmanirpeksh.”
Rajnath also welcomed the first ever fatwa from Islamic seminary Darul-Uloom Deoband against terrorism. He said Saturday’s fatwa showed that “Deoband is seeking to dissociate Muslims from terrorism when the Congress-led central government wishes to equate Muslims with terrorism and, on this very basis, rejects the demand for enactment of an anti-terrorism law”.
Senior BJP leaders have often said many of the terrorist groups — from Taliban to Jaish and Harkat — are widely perceived to be Deobandi in orientation. The Darul-Uloom had denounced terrorism for the first time on February 25, but had not issued a fatwa so far.
Rajnath chose the opening of the BJP national executive to welcome the fatwa because the party seeks to use internal security and minority appeasement as issues more carefully as part of the soft Hindutuva even as it keeps asserting that it has not forgotten issues like Ram Mandir, Article 370 and uniform civil code.
In fact, Rajnath did not forget these issues ahead of the Lok Sabha polls when he addressed the conclave. "Along with cultural nationalism, Article 370, uniform civil code and true secularism, we are committed to preserve the national unity and integrity," he said.
The meet at the Parliament Annexe saw increased security in view of the violent Gujjar agitation in Rajasthan.