Slamming the Opposition over its boycott of the Constitution Day celebrations in Parliament, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said Friday that over time, politics has compromised the value of “nation-first” to such an extent that he doubts if the present lot of leaders will be able to draft “even one page of the Constitution” by setting aside differences.
Many Opposition parties including the Congress, TMC, RJD, DMK, Left parties and the AAP, stayed away from the event.
Modi said: “This event was not that of any government, or of any political party, or of any Prime Minister. The Speaker is the pride of the House. It is a dignified post. It is a matter of Babasaheb Ambedkar’s dignity, the dignity of the Constitution.”
At another event in Vigyan Bhavan, the Prime Minister said obstacles were being created in the path of India’s development “sometimes in the name of freedom of expression and sometimes with the help of something else”. He attributed this to the “colonial mentality” which he said has “not ended” despite the end of colonial rule across the world.
At the Parliament event, the Prime Minister targeted “family-run parties”: “How can parties which have lost their democratic character protect democracy? Today, from Kashmir to Kanyakumari, look at every corner of India, the country is moving towards a crisis that should worry every individual who is committed to the Constitution. Political parties, party for the family, party by the family, and I need not elaborate… This is against the spirit of the Constitution, quite opposite to what the Constitution tells us.”
He qualified his remarks by saying he was not against more than one individual from a family in politics. “On the basis of merit and blessings of the people, more than one person from a family can enter politics, this does not make a party dynastic. But a party run by one family, generation after generation, the family controlling every aspect of the party, is the biggest threat to a healthy democracy,” he said.
President Ram Nath Kovind, Vice President Venkaiah Naidu, Speaker Om Birla were also present on the occasion. Tributes were paid to the security personnel who lost their lives fighting terrorists during the 2008 Mumbai attacks.
November 26 has been celebrated as Constitution Day since 2015. On November 26, 1949, the Constituent Assembly had adopted the Constitution of India, which came into effect January 26, 1950.
Describing the Opposition as the “most important element of democracy”, President Kovind said it is expected that the government and Opposition work together despite their differences.
Bemoaning the fall of Rajya Sabha’s productivity, Vice President Naidu, who is the Chairman of the Upper House, said an essential aspect of a democracy is “tolerance towards the mandate of the people”.
“My experience over the last four years suggests that no legislative proposal of the government was defeated on the floor of the House and in fact quite a few of them were passed by consensus. However, there were instances of Bills being delayed on account of disruptions on various issues,” he said.
The Prime Minister said that under the prevailing circumstances, when political differences often relegate “national interest to the backseat”, drafting even one page of the Constitution appears difficult.
“Imagine what would have happened had we been entrusted with the task of writing the Constitution today. Despite the long shadows of the Independence movement, wave of patriotism, the horrors of Partition, that national interest was supreme was the mantra in every mind then. In today’s context, I do not know if we could have completed writing even one page of the Constitution because over time politics has had such an impact on the values of nation-first that even national interest gets left behind at times. The makers of the Constitution also represented various streams of thought, but they sat together with the belief that national interest is supreme,” he said.
At the Vigyan Bhavan event, Modi said the existence of the colonial mindset “is giving rise to many distortions”. The most glaring proof of this, he said, “is in the obstacles that developing countries are facing in their development journey. Efforts are being made to close for developing nations the same paths on which the developed world travelled and reached where it is today”.
For this, he said, traps of different terminologies have been laid in the past decade. “But the aim has remained one — to stop the progress of developing countries. Today, there are attempts to hijack issues of environment for this purpose.”
He said India is the only country in the process of achieving the goals of the Paris Agreement ahead of time. “And yet, in the name of environment, various pressures are created on India. All this is the result of a colonial mentality… But the misfortune is that even in our own country, going by this colonial mindset, obstacles are created in the path of our own development, sometimes in the name of freedom of expression and sometimes by taking resort to something else,” he said.
He also hailed the results of the latest National Family Health Survey as proof of the intentions of his government to bring development to all without any discrimination.
“A government dedicated to the Constitution does not discriminate in matters of development… In the last seven years, we attempted to take development to every corner of the country without partiality or discrimination. How this has changed the country’s picture is reflected in the recent National Family Health Survey. Many of the facts in the report are proof that when you work with honest intentions, move ahead in the right direction, and attempt to reach the goal with all strength, happy results will certainly follow,” he said.