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Modi warms up to Opposition, says govt must rule with consensus

Gujarat's Chief Minister Narendra Modi gestures as he walks at the lawns at his residence after an interview with Reuters at Gandhinagar in the western Indian state of Gujarat June 25, 2013. Picture taken June 25. To match Special Report INDIA-MODI/    REUTERS/Amit Dave (INDIA - Tags: POLITICS)
Gujarat's Chief Minister Narendra Modi gestures as he walks at the lawns at his residence after an interview with Reuters at Gandhinagar in the western Indian state of Gujarat June 25, 2013. Picture taken June 25. To match Special Report INDIA-MODI/ REUTERS/Amit Dave (INDIA - Tags: POLITICS)

Adopting a highly conciliatory approach towards the Opposition, Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Friday said the government would rule by consensus and not force decisions through majority and ruled out any review of the Constitution. With his government under attack inside and outside Parliament over the issue of growing intolerance, he said in the Lok Sabha that ‘India first’ is the only religion and Constitution the only ‘holy book’ for his government which is committed to working for all sections and religions.

Replying to a two-day long debate in the Lok Sabha to commemorate the Constitution Day and the 125th birth anniversary of Dr B R Ambedkar, Modi also rejected the Congress contention that the NDA government was trying to deny credit to or was undermining the role of leaders like Jawaharlal Nehru, to whom he paid rich tributes. The House later unanimously adopted a resolution hailing the contribution of Ambedkar and other founding fathers of the Constitution.

Allaying apprehensions of the Opposition that the government may tamper with the Constitution, especially on use of terms like secular, Modi said “nobody can dare (such a course) as it will amount to suicide”. “Preserving the sanctity of the Constitution is the responsibility of all of us. The government may be formed on the basis of majority but decisions have to be taken on the basis of consensus,” he said. “There should be consensus, at least efforts should be made for consensus. And if these fail, then the issue of majority-minority would come in. In this House, we are not going to force any decision but make efforts for consensus… If nothing helps then the ultimate is majority-minority,” the Prime Minister said.

“For us, the Constitution assumes more importance. India is full of is so much of diversity and there are different aspirations and it is our responsibility to fulfil them,” he Modi asserted that diversity is the strength of India and it needs to be nurtured. “For the government, the only ‘dharma’ is ‘India first, the only ‘dharma granth’ (holy book) is the Constitution,” the Prime Minister asserted in his 70-minute reply to the debate during which opposition members and questioned his “silence” over the issue.

However, Modi did not specifically refer to any recent incidents arising out of intolerance or nor did he touch on the debate that is raging in the country over it. Modi’s conciliatory tone also came on a day he had invited Congress President Sonia Gandhi and his predecessor Manmohan Singh for tea, in an apparent bid to seek a consensus on issues in Parliament, including passage of the GST bill.