A day after Bihar Chief Minister and BJP ally Nitish Kumar was seen on video staying silent as Prime Minister Narendra Modi chanted Vande Mataram at a rally in Bihar, a senior leader of his Janata Dal United said though they don't have a problem with Bharat Mata Ki Jai and Vande Mataram, it is not correct to impose these slogans on people. Speaking to NDTV, JDU general secretary KC Tyagi, said his party does not believe these slogans can be considered a symbol of nationalism.
"We don't have a problem with Bharat Mata Ki Jai and Vande Mataram but it's not correct to impose them on others. Those who want to raise them, let them and those who don't want to do it, let them be too. We don't believe that these can be considered a symbol of nationality or nationalism," Mr Tyagi said.
The senior JDU leader clarified that these slogans are not part of the composite programme of the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance or NDA.
"These slogans have been raised at BJP and Jan Sangh events. We don't have objections to slogans raised at Sangh and Bharatiya Jana Sangh programmes but we want to say that they are not part of the composite programme of the NDA," he said.
The singing of Vande Mataram, the national song, has been a divisive debate that has been revived during the election campaign in which the ruling BJP's key themes have been nationalism and national security.
KC Tyagi also said if Muslims want to praise the country instead of saying Vande Mataram, it should not be a problem.
"Islam forbids the worship of any other thing so they can say what they like. In Independence movement, in the battle of 1971, even in Kargil, in the war of 1965, Muslims laid down their lives. If they want to hail the country instead of saying Vande Mataram, I don't see a problem in that," Mr Tyagi said.
Many Muslims, on religious grounds, object to the singing of Vande Mataram being made mandatory as it goes against monotheism.
Nitish Kumar and another NDA ally in Bihar, Ram Vilas Paswan, who have a substantial base among Muslim voters, have treaded cautiously on this subject, as they have on other aspects of the BJP's core ideology and agenda.
On Wednesday, in a video, PM Modi was seen pumping fists in the air, chanting Vande Mataram. On stage, Ram Vilas Paswan, joined in the "Vande Mataram" chorus, but next to him, Nitish Kumar stayed resolutely silent. As everyone rose to their feet to join PM Modi in the chanting, Nitish Kumar was the last to stand up.
The video, taken at an NDA rally in Darbhanga on April 25, has become awkward for members of the ruling alliance.
Earlier in the rally, PM Modi had said: "Chanting Vande Mataram is like a life force. Doing this is also a responsibility to ensure the peace, prosperity and security of the country. But some people have a problem with this. They should have their deposits forfeited."
The PM's remarks came two days after the opposition candidate in Darbhanga, Abdul Bari Siddiqui, controversially told a TV channel that while he had no objections to chanting "Bharat Mata Ki Jai", reciting Vande Mataram was against his beliefs. "No one who believes in one God will not ever recite Vande Mataram," said Mr Siddiqui, who faces the BJP's Gopaljee Thakur in Darbhanga.
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