New Delhi, Dec 27: Remember, how quickly the Congress showed veteran leader Mani Shankar Aiyar the exit door for calling Prime Minister Narendra Modi a "neech aadmi" (man of low birth and upbringing) just a few days before the Gujarat Assembly elections?
The Congress might have lost the all-important polls for Aiyar's derogatory remark against the PM, but the grand old party took a moral high ground by suspending one of its oldest 'lieutenants' for insulting Modi.
Unfortunately, PM Modi, who made the "neech" remark against him a Gujarat poll issue, decides to keep quiet after one of his senior cabinet ministers, Anant Kumar Hegde, at a public meeting recently claimed that the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is planning to remove the word "secular" from the Constitution.
What is worse is that the BJP did not issue any official clarification in this regard that the party has no such intentions as suggested by Hegde to end the political row which is causing a lot of distress, especially to the minority communities, which under the Modi regime have come under constant attacks and bullying by members of various right-wing groups.
Instead, the BJP decides to take a safe route in the entire controversial matter. On Tuesday, the saffron party conveniently tried to distance itself from the controversy by stating lamely that it's not an "issue" for the BJP.
"The party (BJP) doesn't want to get involved with what Hegde has said. What he spoke about is not an issue for us," BJP spokesperson for Karnataka Vamanacharya told IANS.
On Sunday, while slamming those who claim themselves to be secular in the country, Hegde, known for his communally-laced remarks in the past, at a function in Kukanur town in Koppal district of Karnataka stated that he respects the Constitution but "it will be changed in the days to come". "We are here for that and that is why we have come."
Stoking a fresh controversy over the country's pluralistic nature, the minister for skill development and entrepreneurship said that those who consider themselves secular and intellectuals do not have "their own identity" and they were also unaware of their parentage.
"Those who, without knowing about their parental blood, call themselves secular, they don't have their own identity...They don't know about their parentage, but they are intellectuals," the 49-year-old BJP minister said at the event organised by the Brahman Yuva Parishad.
Hegde added a new tradition was in vogue, where people project themselves as secular, but asserted he would feel "happy" if someone claims with pride that he is a Muslim, or a Christian, or a Lingayat, or a Brahmin, or a Hindu.
"I feel happy because he (the person) knows about his blood, but I don't know what to call those who claim themselves secular," the minister for skill development and entrepreneurship said.
Hegde, a five-time Lok Sabha member from Uttara Kannada, is no stranger to controversies. On several occasions, he attacked Muslims and those who support them with his vitriolic comments. In fact, experts say Hegde's success in politics is because of his hate speeches against minority communities.
The Congress on Tuesday said that Hegde's remarks were a "direct assault" on the composite identity of the nation and the party will oppose any such attempt with all its might.
Congress spokesperson Gaurav Gogoi said the BJP and the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) were "unmasked" by Hegde's remarks and alleged that "abusing the oath of office and denigrating the Constitution and its values has become a distinctive feature of the Modi government".
Gogoi asked if the PM would break his silence on Hegde's remarks as the minister had openly spoken about changing the Constitution.
An ugly war of words has already started in the country over Hegde's remarks as the BJP decides to remain mum on the matter to suit its political game plans.
A former Karnataka panchayat member on Tuesday offered Rs 1 crore to anyone who would chop off Hegde's tongue for his "secular" remarks.
"Opposing his (Hegde's) remarks I am announcing a bounty of Rs 1 crore for chopping his tongue and bringing it (over) in one month," PTI quoted former Kalaburagi Zilla panchayat member Gurushant Pattedar as saying. Pattedar said Hegde's comment hurt the Dalits, Muslims and OBCs.
Popular south Indian actor Prakash Raj, who of late has been attacking the Modi government for allegedly practising "divisive" politics, slammed Hegde for inciting "hatred" with his comments. Raj said that secularism was about "respecting and accepting diverse religions".
The national award-winning actor, in an open letter to Hegde, wrote that "being secular does not mean that you don't identify with any religion or belief". Terming Hegde's statement as "cheap comments", Raj wondered how could he stoop "so low" by commenting on one's parenthood.
The irony is that Hegde made the unparliamentary comments just months ahead of the Karnataka Assembly elections, slated next year. The BJP's silence over the matter is a clear indication that the party is going to raise the matter during Karnataka elections which it is trying to win allegedly by polarising people on the basis of religion.