NEW DELHI: In a nearly hour-long speech peppered with citations from B R Ambedkar, Jawaharlal Nehru, Granville Austin, Max Mueller, Kabir, Dharmashastras and indirectly even Edmund Burke, Prime Minister Narendra Modi struck a cordial note in the wake of a divisive public debate over “rising intolerance”, stating that “there is no need to prove patriotism morning and evening”.
Modi said “unity is the central theme” of our Constitution. “Enough excuses can be found to disrupt unity. Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty,” he said, seeking views of the upper House on his new mission called ‘Ek Bharat, Shreshta Bharat’.
The speech, that will surely be celebrated by the ruling establishment as a mark of Modi’s reach-out to opposition, especially Congress, saw the PM saying that the idea of celebrating November 26 as Constitution Day was actually inspired by the Maharashtra government then under Congress rule.
“This is an attempt not only to remember articles of the Constitution but to remember and salute those who were part of the Constituent Assembly,” he said. “Only leaders associated with our party were not part of the Constituent Assembly. The country has been made by the positive contribution of everyone. That includes even leaders from Congress. We have the ‘sanskara’ to salute them. This is not about ruling party and opposition. There is a need to rise above and take an objective view. There is a need to tell our future generations about our Constitution and those who worked for it,” Modi said, adding that if in the past Constitution Day was not celebrated, it should not be seen as a fault of previous governments.
He said Ambedkar endured indifference, mockery and reluctant acceptance. “When pressure came from the ground, the country is praising his Constitution. Good things should be acknowledged again and again,” he said.
Stressing that the Constitution was both a legal and social document, he said we have to live up to it. “Faith in Constitution takes us out of daily verbal duel (tu tu, main main),” he said, adding that the downtrodden need love, compassion and camaraderie.
Dwelling on the making of the Constitution, Modi cited constitution expert Granville Austin as having written that “framing of Indian Constitution was perhaps the greatest political venture since that originated in Philadelphia in 1787”.
He said members of the Constituent Assembly had many apprehensions and they could think of the scenario 60-70 years later. On the contrary, he said, “Now we legislate laws in one session and come back the next session seeking small changes. We should not do anything for immediate gain.”
Highlighting the role of Rajya Sabha as envisaged by Nehru, Modi cited the first PM as having said that Constitution could be successful only if both Houses ran smoothly.