Union minister slams 'secularists', says Constitution to change

Union minister of state Ananth Kumar Hegde has kicked up another controversy, mocking secularists with his remark that they were unaware of their parentage.

Addressing an event organised by the Brahman Yuva Parishad in Koppal district of Karnataka on Sunday, Hegde said ''secularists'' were like ''people without parentage''.

Hegde further said the Bharatiya Janata Party had come to power to ''change the Constitution'' (to remove the word 'secular') and would do so in the ''near future''.

The remark by the five-time Lok Sabha MP from Karnataka comes months ahead of the Assembly elections in the southern state. It sparked condemnation from chief minister Siddaramaiah of the Congress, who said the BJP leader does not know parliamentary or political language.

Hegde, 49, said a new attitude 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, a Christian, a Lingayat, 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," said the minister for skill development and entrepreneurship.

"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 mocked.

''A few people say the Constitution mentions the word secular, so you have to agree. Because it's there in the Constitution, we will respect it, but this will change in the near future. The Constitution has changed many times before. We are here and have come to change the Constitution. We will change it,'' said Hegde.

Launching the Parishad's website and women's wing, Hegde said, "I will bow to you, you are aware of your blood. But if you claim to be secular, there arises a doubt about who you are."

Hitting out at Hegde, Siddaramaiah said Hegde has not learnt the social system and added that people belonging to various religions live in India.

"Each and every individual in this country is an Indian, and every religion has equal right and opportunity. He does not have this basic knowledge," Siddaramaiah told reporters in Hubballi.

Hegde is no stranger to controversy. A case was recently registered against him for allegedly using derogatory language against Siddaramaiah at Kittur in Belagavi district. He has been slapped with cases for his "hate speeches", including one where he allegedly equated Islam with terrorism.

There was no word yet on the BJP pulling up its minister or distancing itself from his remarks.

Commenting on the Tipu Sultan Jayanti controversy in Karnataka, Hegde was also quoted as having said at a public meeting that it is only a matter of time before chief minister Siddaramaiah starts making people celebrate "Kasab Jayanti", referring to Ajmal Kasab, the lone surviving gunman from the 2008 Mumbai terrorist attacks.

Hegde was criticising Siddaramaiah for state-wide celebrations to mark Tipu Sultan's birth anniversary on 10 November. The union minister is known to be vehemently opposed to the state celebrations of Tipu Jayanti since it was started in 2015 and had called the festival a "shameful event glorifying a brutal killer".