With some of his party leaders coming under attack for their divisive remarks, and his government under fire for the violence in Delhi, Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Tuesday asked the MPs to “ensure” that their “commitment towards peace, unity, harmony is constantly reflected through our thoughts, words and deeds”.
“I appeal to all MPs that we have to lead from the forefront through collective efforts in order to maintain peace unity and harmony,” Modi is said to have told party MPs at the BJP Parliamentary Party meeting.
“Development is our only mantra; serving the country through development activities remains the main objective of our political activities. We should remember that peace, unity and harmony are prerequisites for development,” he said.
On February 26, Modi had appealed for “peace and brotherhood” and reminded citizens that peace and harmony are “central to our ethos”. But Tuesday was the first time he effectively cautioned BJP MPs against any act of mischief that could spoil this peace.
Asserting that his government works with the slogan of “sabka saath, sabka vikas and sabka vishwash’ (with all, development for all, and trust of all),” Modi used the Sanskrit words “manasa, vaacha, karmana” to ask party leaders to work for India’s development with their mind, words and action.
BJP leaders said Modi’s message to the party MPs were “clear and strong” to those who “created controversy with their statements and embarrassed him. The message, they said, was “strong”.
In a rare move, the BJP Parliamentary Party office distributed copies of the main points from the Prime Minister’s address. His message came a day after the Opposition sought resignation of Home Minister Amit Shah for the Delhi violence. Shah and BJP president J P Nadda attended Tuesday’s meeting.
At the meeting, the Prime Minister also took a dig at his predecessor, Manmohan Singh, without naming him. Maintaining that people earlier objected to “Vande Mataram”, he is reported to have said, “Ab kuchh logon ko Bharat Mata Ki Jai bolne main bhi boo aa rahi hai (now some people find a stink even in the slogan Bharat Mata Ki Jai).”
In the closed-door meeting, Modi said that similar controversies were created over ‘Vande Mataram’ during the freedom struggle, and singing it was considered a “gunah” (crime). According to sources in the party, Modi told the MPs that many people left meetings of the Congress when ‘Vande Mataram’ was played. “It is unfortunate and sad that 70 years after independence, raising a slogan like ‘Bharat Mata Ki Jai’ is being depicted as a crime…. It is unfortunate that a person who held the post of Prime Minister is saying so,” he is reported to have said.
Modi was referring to Singh’s comments last month —that nationalism and the slogan ‘Bharat Mata Ki Jai’ are being misused to construct a “militant and purely emotional” idea of India that excludes millions of people. Singh was speaking at the launch of the book Who is Bharat Mata by Purushottam Agrawal and Radha Krishna on Jawaharlal Nehru’s works and speeches.
Referring to Singh’s remarks, Modi said, “I feel deep pain when I see some people look at even slogans such as Bharat Mata Ki Jai suspiciously…. Such views are very painful — not just me, such attitudes hurt every nationalist.”