The Bharatiya Janata Party, on the first day of its national executive in Raipur, Chhattisgarh, on Friday, said Hindutva would not be an issue in the upcoming elections.
"Hindutva is the soul of India. We are proud of it, but it cannot be an election issue. Nor can Hindutva be projected as a narrow religious concept. We are committed to secularism, but are opposed to pseudo-secularism and appeasement for garnering minority votes," party president Venkaiah Naidu said in the inaugural address.
Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, his deputy Lal Kishenchand Advani and over 150 delegates attended the conclave.
Later, party spokesperson Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi said, "Ayodhya is not a poll issue for us but if the opposition parties seek to create confusion or mislead people, we would give a befitting reply."
The party is expected to come out with a resolution on Ayodhya on Saturday, which would emphasize that the issue should be resolved through talks, which Naqvi said were still on.
In a bid to please the party's allies, Naidu told the BJP leaders that 'we are proud of our ideology. Do not hesitate to state our stand on any issue. But remember that we are leading a coalition government and there is no question of thrusting our agenda on any of our partners'.
He also said the main theme of the party's campaign would be national security, national unity, good governance and development.
Naqvi said both Kashi and Mathura were not on the BJP's agenda and the 'Vishwa Hindu Parishad does not set our agenda'.
Asked whether Congress president Sonia Gandhi's foreign origins would be an issue in the polls, he said, "We have no problem with the Congress making her or Pervez Musharraf (Pakistan president) its president. But having her as prime minister is an issue linked to country's national interest and security.
"Any person born on this soil (India) would be more sensitive and responsible towards self-respect of this country."
Naqvi said conversion would be a key issue in the elections to the Chhattisgarh assembly.
The BJP spokesperson said Naidu, in his address, had demanded effective steps to control the unbridled population growth and targeted the Left-front government in West Bengal for failing to reform the state economy.
Charging the Congress with once again taking up its 'rusted and blunted weapon of communalism', he said, "We are in the least bit worried by their shrill propaganda that BJP is an anti-secular party. We are prepared for an open debate on secularism."