New Delhi: The government is open to a debate on intolerance in Parliament, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley said on Thursday, emphasising India was liberal enough to not only allow dissent but also "manufactured and fake dissent."
Taking Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi head-on over his comments on BJP's governance model, he said Prime Minister Narendra Modi as well as Atal Bihari Vajpayee had risen through the ranks to the nation's highest job unlike Congress model which favour dynasties and family rules.
"Not in the least because there is nothing that the government has to hide. After all India is proud of its liberal traditions and we should continue to remain proud of that," he told Times Now news channel.
He was asked if the government was open to a debate on the issue of intolerance in Parliament.
"And therefore if somebody raises an issue, it certainly must be responded to and Parliament is the best forum where it can best be responded to," he said.
Stating that the issue of intolerance was a "manufactured protest" and a "manufactured dissent", he said, "India is a liberal country. India should be a liberal country. Nobody should face or feel unsafe in India. If anybody feels unsafe and indicates to the government that he is so feeling, it is our duty to protect such a person."
"We don't want this impression to go through. I believe that India is so liberal that it not only allows dissent, it also allows a manufactured and fake dissent. And that is what we have been seeing in the last few days," he said.
He said during the Delhi Assembly Elections, suddenly the issue of attacks on Churches was raised. "And finally independent police investigation showed not a single Church was attacked for political reasons. They were cases of theft or vandalism by culprits who were arrested and are being prosecuted. But it was made into a political issue."
"I think just as a trivial issue wasted the last session of Parliament and even when on last day it was debated, people realised it was much a do about nothing, let this also be debated and we will realise how liberal this country is," he said, expressing government willingness for a debate on the issue of intolerance in Parliament.
Contrasting Indian democracy with the West, Jaitley said one should see the expressions being used in the television debate among the Presidential candidates in the US and the language used in Germany, France or other European countries in the aftermath of the Paris terrorist attacks.
"We are proud to be Indians because our public discourse even in the face of intolerance acts like terrorism or global terrorism has been a very civilised and matured one. And that`s how India should be," he said.
Jaitley said that BJP functions as a democratic party and "Indian democracy must start recognising merit as a criteria of leadership and not families or dynasties".
A large number of political parties, including Congress, have got too used to the idea of a family running the show, he said, adding that these families run the parties and governments and people acceptable to them become leaders of the government or leaders in the party.
"Vajpayee's model and Modi's model is entirely different (from Congress's model). There is a cross-section of developing leadership who are all leaders in their own right, who are part of Modi's government.
"Our chief ministers are strong, they are not rubber-stamp (CMs), they are not nominated by the Centre. Shivraj Singh Chouhan (of Madhya Pradesh) got elected on his own merit, Devendra Fadnavis (in Maharashtra) got elected on his own merit, Vasundhara Raje (in Rajasthan) rules on her own merit and there were many people from amongst whom Modi emerged as first among equals," he said.
Jaitley said ministers in the Modi government enjoy a lot of freedom in framing policies.
"I can tell you as a minister in his government, the kind of freedom I have to frame policies, I doubt if finance ministers in Congress government had that freedom. They were really bound by what a family decided, what a national advisory committee next to the family decided. They were sulking because they were not allowed to pursue their own policies and that was one of the perils of the UPA model," he claimed.
Jaitley said both Modi and Vajpayee started as ordinary party workers and climbed the ladder to the highest position.
"They weren't born within a family. They didn't rise" because of birth in a particular family, but they "became natural leaders of party".