It is strange that some political leaders who claim monopoly to secularism have critised that by touching or sitting by the side of Narendra Modi, the Chief Minister of Gujarat belonging to Bharatiya Janata Party, Nitish Kumar, the Chief Minister of Bihar, has become polluted and lost his secular credentials, knowing full well that there is JD(U)-BJP coalition government in Bihar and Sushil Modi is the Deputy Chief Minister. Such criticism indicates the height of perversity or low level to which our political morality has descended. Undoubtedly, such criticism, if comes from leaders who are known for making untenable criticism using intemperate and indecent language, has to be and could be ignored. But that such a criticism has come from the Prime Minister Manmohan Singh who is of sober and decent temperament makes all right-thinking persons to worry as to what extent the pernicious propaganda of dividing political parties as secular and anti-secular, constitutes a threat to our democratic polity.
Our cultural values, which mandate equal treatment of all, have been incorporated in the fundamental rights chapter of our Constitution. Our brand of secularism is respect for all religions and equal treatment and equal protection of all citizens irrespective of caste, religion, etc. Therefore, there is no political party in our country which is anti-secular, i.e., no party wants any one to be discriminated on the ground of religion or caste. Still a few political parties, which want to thrive by dividing the people as majority and minority on the basis of religion to secure their votes, call themselves secular and dub other political parties whose ideal is ?appeasement of none and equal treatment of all?, anti-secular. Such a propaganda is being made without realising that for the sake of temporary political gains, they are inflicting irreparable injury on the body politic and democratic system. This attitude has been condemned by Bharat Ratna Shri C Subramanyam (vide his book CS Speaks, pages 334-335, published by Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan) in the following words:-
?When the Constitution of India came into force on 26th November 1949, the pernicious social system of untouchability was abolished. Article 17 declared untouchability is abolished and its practice in any form is forbidden. The enforcement of any disability arising out of ?untouchability? shall be an offence punishable in accordance with law.? Serious action is being taken to eradicate the remnants of untouchability existing in any form wherever they exist. It is no longer a debatable point. While so, another form of untouchability has crept into our polity, namely, ?political untouchability?. This is mainly based on the concept of secularism, even though each political party has its own view as to what is to be considered anti-secular. The parties which claim to be secular consider BJP and its allied organisations, politically untouchable. For a different reason the Left parties consider Indian National Congress untouchable. There is another concept of untouchability?on the basis of the policy of a political party as anti-people?another vague term used particularly by the communist parties and parties allied to them.
These attitudes of dubbing any party or policy anti-people arise out of, what I would call, political fundamentalism. Any party or individual who does not agree with one'sown political or economic ideology is dubbed anti-secular or anti-people.
?It looks as if each political party leader looks upon others as fools or knaves. It is not surprising that the nation is going through a period of uncertainty and drifting without a positive direction.? [CS Speaks, pp. 334-335]
In fact, every legislator has to take an oath to abide by the Constitution. The constitutional provisions therefore constitute the ?common minimum programme? for all. It is a matter of common knowledge that the ?political untouchability? has cost the nation heavily by way of premature general elections and political instability. Therefore, it should be eradicated. Any political combination which constitutes the majority should form the government and administer the Union or the State as the case may be, in conformity with the ?Preamble, the fundamental rights, directive principles of state policy and the fundamental duties? incorporated in the Constitution which constitute the constitutional manifesto. Hence, earlier this motivated division of political parties as secular and anti-secular is demolished, better it is for the nation. Therefore, a nationwide movement should be started to abolish political untouchability.
(The writer is former Chief Justice of Punjab and Haryana High Court and former Governor of Jharkhand and Bihar.)