BJP stresses its 'commitment to secularism'

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Surajkund, Sept 28: Keen to win more allies, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), which has been identified with the Hindutva tag, on Friday decided to strive for an "imaginative re-projection" of its "commitment to secularism" and reassured minority community that it does not support discrimination on the basis of religion.

LK Advani, while delivering the valedictory address at the party National Council Meet, insisted that as the anti-Congress constituency is rapidly expanding, the NDA should gain from it and transform itself into "NDA Plus".

"This involves reassuring our potential allies that they have nothing to be apprehensive about partnering with the BJP. This requires an imaginative re-projection of our commitment to secularism," Advani said.

In his written text of his valedictory speech, Advani maintained that the BJP needed to reassure the minority community that "we brook no discrimination or injustice in dealing with different sections of our diverse society".

Interestingly, Advani in his speech condemned the controversial film deemed offensive to Islam which has sparked protests but did not read out this part of the written text like BJP president Nitin Gadkari, who skipped it in his inaugural address at the National Council.

"I would like to refer to an important issue that is agitating the minds of Muslims in India and elsewhere.... A controversial film on Islam, which is highly derogatory to Prophet Mohammed, is circulating on the Internet."

"I strongly condemn it. It is against our ethos to accept defamation of prophets and saints, who are revered by any faith," Advani said.

Advani suggested that BJP should formulate a common minimum agenda to bring others to the "NDA Plus" fold.

He said this can be called "Common National Commitment to Good Governance".

When Gadkari had taken over as BJP President nearly three years ago, he had given a call for wooing certain sections of the society to increase the party votebank by 10 per cent to defeat the Congress. Reaching out to Muslims was a part of this project.

The meeting sought to send across a message to the cadre that they should shun sycophancy and be disciplined and honest to emerge as a credible alternative to the "corrupt" Congress-led UPA government.

The BJP also asked its party leaders to get battle-ready, insisting that general elections may be held before 2014. Gadkari and Advani emphasised on winning more allies and interestingly sent overtures to Muslims by condemning the recent anti-Islam film.

The BJP National Executive and National Council meet were non-controversial, unlike some of the recent conclaves, and saw even leaders like Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi maintaining a low profile.

There were glitches though with former Karnataka chief minister BS Yeddyurappa, who has been sulking since he was removed from the top post in July last year, boycotted the conclave.

The National Council Meet will be remembered for amending the BJP constitution to give the party president two consecutive three-year terms. This will pave the way for Gadkari to seek another term once he completes his three years in December.

He will be at the helm of BJP affairs in the next elections as his second term will get over in December 2015. This decision also showed the overarching influence of the RSS on the BJP as it is the Sangh founthead's wish to give another term to Gadkari.

Advani asked the party leaders to keep up BJP's USP of being honest, patriotic, disciplined and all for probity in public life. He said the party should be ready to face the same stringent tests on corruption as it wants the Congress leaders mired in graft cases to face.

PTI

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