Koppal, Karnataka: Union minister Anant Kumar Hegde is in the centre of another controversy after he said that his party, the ruling BJP, will "soon change the Constitution," which mentions the word "secular." He was attacking what he called a "new fad where people project themselves as secular."
The 49-year-old minister was speaking at a function in Kukanur of Koppal district in the state when he urged people to "claim with pride that they are Muslim, Christian, Lingayat, Brahmin, or a Hindu," adding, "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."
He also said, "Some people say the Constitution says secular and you must accept it. We will respect the Constitution, but the Constitution has changed several times and it will change in the future too. We are here to change the Constitution and we'll change it."
The Karnataka Congress has asked if the BJP endorses its minister's views and suggested that if so, the party must face assembly elections in the state next year "on this agenda." Chief Minister Siddaramaiah said Mr Hegde has "clearly not studied the Constitution, does not know parliamentary or political language," and must know that "each and every individual in this country is an Indian, And every religion has equal right and opportunity."
Anant Kumar Hegde is a five-time Lok Sabha member from Uttara Kannada, who was made a minister in Prime Minister Narendra Modi's cabinet reshuffle in August this year as part of the BJP's strategy to boost representation from states where elections will be held soon. The party hopes to wrest Karnataka back after losing the only southern state it has ruled to the Congress in 2013.
Mr Hegde, known for making controversial comments, has been in a series of rows since he was inducted as minister for skill development and entrepreneurship. A case was registered against him earlier this month for allegedly abusing Mr Siddaramaiah at Kittur in Belagavi district.
Soon after he was appointed a minister CCTV footage of Mr Hegde slapping a doctor was widely circulated. He was seen striking the doctor, grabbing him by the throat and slamming him against a wall. Mr Hegde was apparently furious because he felt the doctors were not paying enough attention to his mother, who had suffered multiple fractures after a fall at home.