My government’s only religion is ‘India first’, only religious book is Indian Constitution: PM Modi

New Delhi(PTI): Breaking his silence in Parliament, Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Friday denounced communalism and asserted that his government stood for unity wherein all religions prosper within the framework of the Constitution.

“My government’s only religion is ‘India first’, my government’s only religious book is ‘Indian Constitution’, our only devotion is ‘Bharat Bhakti’ and our only prayer is ‘welfare of all’,” he said in Lok Sabha while replying to a debate on President’s Address.

He declared that as the Prime Minister, it was his “responsibility” not to allow “anaap shanap (ridiculous) comments in the name of religion.

“Nobody has the right to discriminate on the basis of religion… “No one has the right to take law into his hands,” the Prime Minister said.

His statement assumes significance as the government has been under attack over certain communal remarks made by some BJP and Sangh parivar leaders.

“Communalism for political reasons has destroyed the country. Hearts have been broken,” Modi said, asking why questions are being “posed to us”.

Insisting that “We want all religions to prosper”, the Prime Minister said it is possible only in India under its Constitution which has been prepared with the thinking of thousands of years of the country’s history.

“This nation full of diversity. We are for unity in diversity, not disunity. All religions should flourish. It is the uniqueness of India because of its Constitution,” he said.

“We want to take the nation forward within the framework of the Constitution,” Modi said, adding he saw only the “tricolor” and “no other colour”.

Recalling his election rally in Patna in October 2013 which was rocked by serial bomb blasts, Modi said he had then “asked who should Hindus fight with — with muslims or poverty? I had asked muslims, do you want to fight with hindus or poverty. We have fought enough. Now let us unite and fight against poverty.”

Referring to his slogan of ‘sabka saath, sabka vikas’, he said he sought the cooperation of the opposition also for the benefit of the country.

The Prime Minister, who has come under attack from opposition for remaining silent on controversial communal and divisive remarks made by some BJP and Sangh parivar leaders, said the nation has to work collectively for its progress.

During his over 70-minute speech, he dwelt upon MNREGA, blackmoney, corruption and coal block allocations besides the steps like empowerment of states to strengthen federalism, cleanliness drive and Jan Dhan as part of good governance.

He asked opposition to support his initiatives aimed at development and prosperity of the country, shedding the political affiliations.

“Let us find solutions to problems which are old and we have inherited,” he said.

Responding to criticism that he was mostly talking about small things, Modi said he believes that “small things are the root cause of big problems.”

He took a dig at the opposition over rumours that MNREGA scheme was being stopped.

“You may say that I do not have wisdom in some areas…

But at least I do have some political wisdom…How can I shut down this scheme? … MNREGA is a living example of your failures,” he said, taking a dig at Congress.

Asserting that MNREGA will continue with “honour and dignity”, he said he “will keep beating the drums that you formulated for the poor (the scheme) to force them to continue to dig holes in the ground even after 60 years of independence. You have done good thing by leaving your footprints which people should know.”

Modi said he does not wish to claim that whatever has been done was done only in the last nine months, since his government came to power. He said he was ready to give credit to previous governments where due.

“We do not believe that the country was born in 1947, it has been there for thousands of years. Ideologies come and go.

Governments come and go. Nations are built from their philosophies. India’s basic ideology is the welfare of all,” he said.

Talking about blackmoney, the Prime Minister promised action against those having accounts with such money. He said not only politicians, but others also have such accounts.

“Nobody having black money will be spared… We are not going to digress from this path… Nobody should say we are vindictive. We have made a promise and I assure the House, action will be taken,” he said.

Responding to questions by members as to what has been done by his government on dealing with blackmoney, Modi said the least that has done is that people, even MPs, are openly now discussing the issue which they were scared of earlier.

He attacked the previous UPA government, saying it had not set up Special Investigating Team (SIT) on blackmoney for three years despite the Supreme Court telling it.

“However, after we came to power, in our first Cabinet meeting, we took the decision of setting up the SIT,” Modi said.

He lauded the initiatives taken by Finance Minister Arun Jaitley in signing new treaties with the Swiss and other authorities in getting back blackmoney. He also asserted that he forced the G-20 leaders to agree that steps need to be taken to curb blackmoney used for drugs and terrorism.

Talking about corruption, the Prime Minister said it had destroyed the country as he appealed for cooperation from all parties to deal with the menace instead of allegations and counter-allegations.

“A corruption-free system can be put in place…. I want that this issue should not remain confined to political debate, otherwise we will remain engaged in ‘tu tu mai mai’ and ‘kiski shirt zyada safed hai’ (whose shirt is more white)…. If we keep trading charges only, those indulging in making money will continue to do so.”

Asserting that there should be a resolve to prevent corruption in future besides focussing on old cases, he said, “Can there be no problem which will go beyond political arena? Corruption is such…. We should leave minimum grey area (for corruption).”

He said one of the ways to deal with corruption was to have policy-driven government.

Talking about federalism, the Prime Minister said his government was committed to empowering states as he believes that the country will prosper when states progress.

Modi said he feels states should be empowered irrespective of which party is in power there.

In this context, he referred to the decision to implement the Finance Commission recommendation of raising the devolution of funds to states by 10 per cent despite divisions in the Commission.

“For the first time after independence, out of total revenues generated through taxes, a majority of 62 per cent taxes were going to states, with only 48 per cent left in the central treasury. For the first time ever Delhi government’s treasury is being reduced,” he said.

He said even though the Finance Commission stood divided on increasing states share in central taxes, the government did not use the lack of unanimity in denying states their right and went ahead in taking the decision.

“We are trying to stregthen states irrespective of colours. We do not see colour of any party. We see only the tricolor,” he said, amid repeated thumping of desks. he said.

Referring to the Swachha Bharat mission, he said it is not merely an inauguration process but a continuous movement.

Taking a dig at Samajwadi Party leader Mulayam Singh Yadav for talking about continued pollution at banks of Varanasi in Uttar Pradesh, Modi said, “I could not decide whether to laugh or cry. Was he giving the report card of Uttar Pradesh government or …?”

Varanasi Lok Sabha constituency is represented by Modi and Yadav had said that despite the Prime Minister “cleaning” Assi Ghat there, it continued to be dirty.

In a pot-shot at Yadav, Modi said said Ram Manohar Lohia used to run Swachh Abhiyan and “it should not be that since he was doing so then Modiji should not do it.” He said this sacred work of cleanliness in the country should not be done by the head of state but is the task of 125 crore people.

Talking of toilets, he said government should be policy driven so that there are solutions to problems. He said it was more a question of pride of women and their security.