Secular and socialist in the Constitution? Government ready to debate


New Delhi: Union minister Ravi Shankar Prasad Wednesday dismissed the “fuss” over the absence of the words “secular and socialist” in a government ad showing the preamble to the Constitution, wading into a controversy at a cabinet briefing where ministers usually stick to talking about the day’s decisions.

“Sometimes things should be seen in their historical context and the founding fathers of the Constitution, even B.R. Ambedkar and Jawaharlal Nehru, did not include these words in the original text,” said Prasad, the IT and communications minister. Spectrum-related decisions were taken at the cabinet meeting Wednesday.

The previous evening, junior I&B minister Rajyavardhan Rathore tweeted a “clarification” that the ad was based on the original preamble, which did not contain these words.

BJP sources said Rathore’s interjection was meant to cap the debate and felt that “Prasad could have avoided a second intervention”.

Undeterred, Prasad told The Telegraph: “Let the debate go on.”

The assertion came a day after US President Barack Obama’s public nudge on religious tolerance and a few hours after Prime Minister Narendra Modi told NCC cadets that “unity in diversity” was India’s strength and inspiration. Modi later met Mary Kom, the boxer who was upheld by Obama along with Shah Rukh Khan and Milka Singh as symbols of India’s inter-faith co-existence.

Late last night, Prasad said: “I simply said this was the original preamble and the framers of the Constitution, including Shri Rajendra Prasad, Sardar Patel, Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru and Maulana Azad, knew the tradition of secularism and the tradition of equality and equity. Yet, they never chose to bring in the words in 1950 that were brought in through the back door during Emergency. Would my Congress friends doubt Pandit Nehru’s commitment to secularism?”

While the BJP insisted there was no “hidden agenda” in the ad, ally Shiv Sena demanded that the words “secular” and “socialist” be dropped from the preamble.