Republican Party of India leader Ramdas Athawale speaks in Mumbai. Photo: Hindustan Times

Union Minister Ramdas Athawale courted controversy on Monday when he said it was perfectly acceptable to refuse to sing Vande Mataram, the national song, PTI reported.

Athawale reportedly said the issue of singing the national song as a mandatory expression of patriotism was being used to foment conflict between communities.

PTI quoted him as saying, “Everybody should recite Vande Mataram, but if it is not recited, what will go wrong?”

The Madras High Court recently made singing the song mandatory in all government schools, colleges and universities in Tamil Nadu at least once a week, following which a BJP MLA in Maharashtra demanded the implementation of the ruling in schools and colleges. This sparked a political row with legislators of other parties opposed to the move.