New Delhi: Pushing for declaring Bhagwad Gita as a national scripture, External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj on Sunday said only a formal announcement remained in this regard, sparking a controversy with TMC and and Congress coming out with sharp responses.
Reacting to Swaraj's remarks, the Trinamool Congress (TMC) said only the Constitution is the "Holy Book" in a democracy while Congress called her statement "frivolous".
Swaraj made the remarks while speaking at 'Gita Prerna Mahotsav', organised to celebrate 5,151 years of religious book Gita at the Red Fort Maidan in New Delhi where VHP president Ashok Singhal said Prime Minister Narendra Modi should immediately declare the sacred text of Hindus as a national scripture.
Swaraj said that the respect of a "national scripture" was already accorded to Gita when Prime Minister Modi gifted it to US President Barack Obama during his visit to the country in September this year.
"Bhagwad Gita has answers to everybody's problems and that's why I said it while standing in the Parliament that, 'Shrimad Bhagwad Gita' should be declared as a rashtriya granth(holy scripture).
"The formal announcement for it hasn't been made since the (NDA) government came to power. But I am happy to say that the Prime Minister has already given it the honour of a national 'Rashtriya Granth' when he handed over the 'Shrimad Bhagwad Gita' to America's President Barack Obama. Only a formal announcement now remained," she said.
The Minister said she was able to face the challenges as External Affairs Minister only beacuse of the teachings of Bhagwad Gita.
"This (Gita) has helped me all through my life. Even now, when I am handling the External Affairs and the challenges related to it," she said.
Referring to cases where people consume chocolates and pop pills to fight depression, she said, "Eating chocolates or popping pills won't reduce depression. Instead, one must read Gita. This will help relieve the stress and depression in life. It will help in dealing with challenges of life."
Reacting to Swaraj's remarks on declaring Gita as a national scripture, TMC leader and West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee said the Constitution was the "Holy Book" in a democracy.
"Our Constitution says India is a secular country. The Constitution is the Holy Book in a democracy," Banerjee told PTI in Kolkata.
"We respect all holy books equally. They are all our pride," she said, adding, "Quran, Puran, Ved, Vedanta, Bible, Tripitak, Zend-Avesta, Guru Granth Sahib, Gita - we respect all."
Congress leader Manish Tewari said the essence of the Gita lies in its substance and not in its symbolism.
"So, if anybody has seriously read and internalised the teachings of the Gita they would not make such a frivolous statement," he said.
Singhal said there are two ways to declare Gita a national scripture.
"First is to pass a bill and declare it as a national scripture. But if the Prime Minister immediately declares it as a national scripture... Sushma Swaraj is present here today. As a member of the Union Cabinet, I request Swaraj to make Prime Minister Modi declare Gita as the national scripture."
Senior RSS leader Indresh Kumar said the UN should also declare Gita Divas as it is announcing June 21 as Yoga Day.
Updated Date: Dec 08, 2014 12:05 PM