By Ankita Gupta
Union Minister of State for Employment and Skill Development, Anant Kumar Hegde, kicked up a storm while addressing a gathering in Karnataka’s Kopal district, by describing ‘secular’ people as those who do not have an identity of their parental blood. He spurred the people to identify themselves with their caste instead of being secular and progressive to gain self-respect. He even hinted at making amendments to the Constitution by doing away with the idea of “secularism”.
A disastrous speech from a distinguished politician
Hegde, who has been a veteran member of the Lok Sabha since 1996, has been mired in controversy since his unfortunate Speech. He stated, deridingly, that a new trend was emerging in India wherein people claim to be secular. “Those claiming to be secular and progressive do not have an identity of their parents and their blood. One will get self-respect through such identity,” he said. “I will be happy if someone identifies as Muslim, Christian, Brahmin, Lingayat or Hindu. But trouble will arise if they say they are secular.” The Union Minister also pointed out that the Constitution needs to be changed from time to time and promised that his Government is “here to change the Constitution.” This speech was in sharp contrast to Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s ideas, who has often said that the Constitution of India is the only holy book in his eyes.
Arguments against Hegde’s speech
Several politicians and activists have lashed out at the strong words used by Hegde in a public address. They feel that such elocution is unwarranted and unacceptable, coming from a senior minister. Chief Minister Siddaramaiah lashed out by saying that Hedge is not well versed in the Constitution, or parliamentary and political language. Siddaramaiah accused Hedge of not having the basic knowledge about the social system in India. Referring to his speech, Rahul Gandhi said that the Constitution of India was under attack and it was the responsibility of the Congress party and all individuals to defend the statute. He stated that the document was being attacked “either directly through statements made by senior BJP leaders or surreptitiously. The foundation of this country, given us by the Congress party, given to us Mr Ambedkar is under attack.”
Arguments in favour of Hedge’s speech
There are only a few influential BJP politicians who defended Hegde. They alleged that he meant no disrespect to Dr Ambedkar, architect of the Indian Constitution. Hegde, who is a five-time member of the Lok Sabha had previously been hailed as the Yogi Adityanath of Karnataka. His followers have argued that Hedge was not anti-Constitutional or anti-secularist in his speech. His allies said that cries like “Constitution under threat” or “Secularism under threat” are just politically motivated slogans and narrow instances of moral outrage.
A wrested apology from the minister
Hegde, on Thursday, apologised for his statement, telling the Lok Sabha that his words were distorted. The apology came, after a deadlock in Parliament as some members of his own party had distanced themselves from the speech. “I want to assure my friends that Constitution is supreme to me, Parliament is supreme to me. I deeply respect the Constitution, the Parliament & Baba Saheb Ambedkar. The Constitution is supreme for me, there can be no question on it, as a citizen I can never go against it,” the Minister of State for Skill Development said.
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