Apparently having in mind the "hate-North Indians" campaign launched by Raj Thackeray in Maharashtra, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Friday said those who seek to divide society on the basis of domicile would not serve the nation's unity.
"Those who seek to divide on the basis of religion, on the basis of caste or place one belongs to, I think they do not serve the cause of national unity or national progress," he said without naming anybody or any party.
There was a need to find a "practical and pragmatic" solution to deal with such tendencies and "if not curbed, it can have destablising tendencies," he said releasing a book written by senior Congress leader Vasant Sathe at his residence in New Delhi.
Noting that he had often said that India did not face any "serious external constraints" to realise its ambitions, the prime minister said, "our problems are at home. Our challenges are at home and there are enormous opportunities".
"The things that we do and the things we do not do will have profound consequences on our ability to emerge as a true global power", he said adding an internally divided society could not project an external image of strength and power.
Such internal cohesion could not be imposed. "That is not the way in which the Indian people wish to govern themselves," he said adding these guidelines should guide the political pundits.
The Prime Minister said India has demonstrated to the world that despite diversity, internal differences and all the contentious tendencies, "we have steadfastly adhered to the principles of parliamentary democracy."
To drive home his point, he cited instances of smooth change of governments "even after highly divisive electoral campaigns (which) testifies to the stability of our political process."
In a philosophical tone, Singh said "governments come and governments go but the country moves on without fear of political destabilisation, without fear of any threat to our democracy. This too gives us a unique place in the comity of nations".
At the same time, he said, the process of change was throwing up new patterns of leadership which lead to empowerment of marginalised sections.
The select gathering included Union Ministers Shivraj Patil, P Chidambaram and AR Antulay, senior Congress leader Motilal Vora and eminent jurist Fali Nariman.
On the need for having economic self-reliance, he said it was most important to manage the economy efficiently, operate on the frontiers of the modern science and technology and pay adequate attention to imperative of national security.
"These are important attributes of a global power", he said.
Referring to social reforms, the Prime Minister said unless all sections of society feel they were part of the processes of change and the processes of empowerment, the country would not be able to move forward as a Nation.
He said the social reform should aim at arriving internal cohesion consensually. "Be it the reform of our personal laws, reform of education, reform of health care, reform of local government. All of these must be based on the idea of social inclusion," he said.
On the occasion, Sathe suggested that the Prime Minister should be elected directly through a nation-wide electoral college in order to give political stability.
The veteran Congress leader said that youth leaders should be asked to organise rallies at the level of district and state before planning it at the national level to attract young blood into the party fold.
"Unless Congress becomes strong on its own, even coalition will be difficult", he said.
Lord Meghnad Desai said there was a need for a consensus on the issue of national security and India should behave like a great power and not as a victim.