Vice-President M Venkaiah Naidu on Saturday said religion was a way of worship and culture a way of living and that the two must be respected.
Speaking at the Calcutta Chamber of Commerce here, he said irrespective of the different languages spoken in the country, all its people were Indians.
"Religion is a way of worship and culture is a way of living. We must respect that.... Irrespective of the languages we speak, we are all Indians and we are one nation," Naidu said.
He added that though India was poised to be among the top global economies in 10 to 15 years, there were challenges such as poverty to overcome.
"There are challenges like poverty. These challenges have to be fought together and everyone has to participate," Naidu said, adding that the Parliament needed to function properly to address these issues.
"I am now the chairman of the Rajya Sabha and I have 20 years of experience in parliamentary democracy. I feel that parliamentarians are role models. They carry the image of the political party they belong to," he said.
Naidu had represented the BJP in Parliament, before becoming the vice-president in August.
"Democracy is not about numbers. Even a party with a small representation in Parliament should be allowed to talk and be heard," he said.
Naidu added that criticism had to be taken on a positive note. "If a member is agitated, he should speak out or walk out. But, he should not disrupt the proceedings," he said.
"In my lifetime, I have seen parliamentarians like Shyama Prasad Mukherjee, Hiren Mukherjee, Jawaharlal Nehru, Atal Bihari Vajpayee, Indrajit Gupta and others. They used to maintain certain standards of dignity," Naidu said and added, "One should know that politicians are not enemies (of each other), but mere political rivals."
Stating that the time had come for a serious introspection, he said, "There is no Emergency now. There is no chance of an Emergency. But there is an urgency to address the challenges for which the Parliament has to function."