Kozhikode (Kerala), Sep 25: Accusing opposition parties for propagating a "distorted definition" of secularism, Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Sunday invoked Jan Sangh ideologue Deendayal Upadhyaya to say that Muslims should not be treated as mere tools to garner votes nor neglected but should be treated as "own".
Addressing the National Council meet, he vowed his commitment to his call for "Sabka Saath, Sabka Vikas" and also pitched for electoral reforms by advocating simultaneous elections of the Lok Sabha and the state assemblies.
"At a time when 'vikrat paribhasha (distorted definition)' of secularism is being propagated in the country and even patriotism is cursed, what should be the way to see towards Muslims?" Modi asked and recalled that long back, Upadhyaya, founding father of the Jan Sangh -- the predecessor of the BJP -- had said that Muslims should not be mere tools to garner votes nor neglected.
"Don't reward nor rebuke Muslims but refine them. They are not items of vote market nor are they substance of hate. Treat them as your own," Modi quoted Upadhyaya as saying.
"It is in this context, we have launched our developmental programmes based on the spirit of Sabka Saath, Sabka Vikas," Modi said, adding this was not a mere slogan for his government but a commitment.
"When we talk of this idea, we talk about the last man standing in the queue... we need to empower them socially and economically. The union government is moving ahead with the vision and will now much be focussed towards it."
Modi also stressed the need for creating an alternate politics as advocated by Upadhyaya who had always suggested that no section of people should be left neglected or considered as tools to garner votes.
"We have always tried to uphold his principles and today we again pledge ourselves to rededicate for the cause of such inclusive development," he said.
He said it was high time we extended a helping hand to the last man -- the poorest man in each corner of the country.
Reissuing his call for electoral reforms, Modi said it was imperative to strengthen democracy.
"I think this is time to bring about electoral reforms. In the centenary year of Pandit Deendayal Upadhyaya, we can organise seminars across the country on electoral reforms," he said.
"At least we should start brainstorming the issue, and we will see what amrit (nectar) will come out of this churning," he said.
"To strengthen the roots of democracy, we will have to bring about electoral reforms, we will have to add a few new things, have to delete a few obsolete things from the electoral procedures," he said.
He said that even members from other political parties have been asking him to bring about electoral reforms, but it would be better if changes emerged after thorough brainstorming.
This was at least the third time in as many months that the Prime Minister has called for electoral reforms.
Modi also announced that India will ratify the 21st Conference of Parties (CoP) protocol on combating climate change on the occasion of Mahatma Gandhi's birth anniversary on October 2.
"Now the time has come to ratify the COP21 protocol. India will do it on Gandhi Jayanti on October 2," he said, noting Gandhi lived his life with a minimum "Carbon footprint".
It was also on October 2 last year that India had submitted its action plan, called the 'Intended Nationally Determined Contribution', to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), which eventually led to a deal at COP 21 in Paris in December 2015.
Earlier, paying tributes to Upadhyaya, the Prime Minister asked if politicians today can change Indian politics by following his ideals.
"Through our thinking and conduct, can we change people's perception towards politicians? Can we become symbols of the ideals of Pandit Deendayal?" Modi said, adding that Upadhyaya gave the mantra that the Indian politics should be rooted in Indian culture.