New Delhi: Senior BJP leader LK Advani on Wednesday expressed sadness over "political untouchability" among leaders of different ideological persuasions, saying it weakens democracy and the functioning of Parliament and also affects inter-party relationship.
At a meeting to commemorate the life and work of former MP and founder of the Party for Democratic Socialism, Saifuddin Choudhury, who passed away in September, the BJP leader said he agreed with Jan Sangh leader Deendayal Upadhyay's view that untouchability in the field of politics badly "hurts" democracy.
"But there have been occasions when even in such matters (condolence meetings), (political) untouchability is practised. It's sad and tragic. It weakens democracy, weakens even the functioning of Parliament properly or functioning of inter-party relationship," Advani said.
Speaking at the meeting, Advani recalled how, after taking oath as Home Minister, he had attended the funeral of former Kerala Chief Minister EMS Namboodiripad as a government representative although the latter belonged to the Left.
Advani said that any political party in the country which believes in democracy and in the proper functioning of Parliament, should never have an attitude of untouchability.
The memorial meeting today was attended by leaders from different parties, including Congress's Digvijay Singh and its Deputy Leader of Opposition in Rajya Sabha, Anand Sharma, CPI(M)'s Sitaram Yechury, CPI's AB Bardhan and DP Tripathi of NCP.
Yechury, a CPI(M) Politburo member, said that untouchability in the political arena is nowadays taking place within parties as well.
"This untouchability... Should not be there. This is nowadays taking place inside parties as well. We have been seeing these things in the parties," said Yechury.
A condolence resolution was also read during the meeting.
"While remembering such a unique personality and mourning his untimely departure from our midst, the meeting resolves to carry forward Saifuddin Choudhury's legacy in the days ahead," the condolence resolution stated.
Sharma, while recalling his interactions with Choudhury, said it was his transparency which had touched him.
Advani further said that while in society it is generally
and universally recognised that untouchability is a sin and should not be practised, "in the political field, it is often thought that if you touch so and so whose ideology is this, then you are committing a sin or at least you are committing an act which is wrong".
Advani said, "He (Upadhyay) told Jan Sangh workers that they should never compromise with their ideology but untouchability in the field of politics hurts democracy very badly and one should not do it. After that day I embraced that (idea)."
Recalling a conversation he had once had with Choudhury, Yechury said, "He (Choudhury) told me that 'I as a Muslim gave a speech about Shah Bano, then the country heard. When Sitaram talks about RSS or Hindu Rashtra, the country listens'. So, when one Muslim talks against Muslim fundamentalists and a Hindu talks against Hindu communalism... That has more relevance and not the vice-versa."