IN an apparent criticism of Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal’s two-day protest just a few hundred metres away from Rashtrapati Bhawan earlier this week, President Pranab Mukherjee said on Saturday that “populist anarchy” cannot be a substitute for governance and the government is not a “charity shop”. Without naming the AAP, he said “elections do not give any person the licence to flirt with illusions”.
In his address to the nation on the eve of Republic Day, the President also seemed to caution the ruling coaltion as he acknowledged the popular anger against corruption
“Corruption is a cancer that erodes democracy and weakens the foundations of our state. If Indians are enraged, it is because they are witnessing corruption and waste of national resources. If governments do not remove these flaws, voters will remove governments,” he said.
“Equally dangerous is the rise of hypocrisy in public life. Elections do not give any person the licence to flirt with illusions. Those who seek the trust of voters must promise only what is possible. Government is not a charity shop. Populist anarchy cannot be a substitute for governance. False promises lead to disillusionment, which gives birth to rage, and that rage has one legitimate target: those in power,” said Mukherjee.
The President said democratic institutions have been weakened by complacency and incompetence. It is important to understand that in this “noisy democracy”, those in power have been invested with a trust which must not be betrayed. “If we hear sometimes an anthem of despair from the street, it is because people feel that a sacred trust is being violated, he said.
Mukherjee said governments are elected to deliver social and economic progress at the “speed of a race horse”, so nothing less would serve to calm the rage on the streets and reduce the trust deficit between those in power and an aspirational young India.
“Those in politics should understand that every election comes with a warning sign: perform or perish,” he said, while emphasising that in an election year, a fractured mandate may prove an impediment to the growth story.
Praising the Armed Forces, he said, “Communal forces and terrorists will still seek to destabilise the harmony of our people and the integrity of our state, but they will never win. Our security and armed forces, backed by the steel of popular support, have proved that they can crush an enemy within, with as much felicity as they guard our frontiers. Mavericks who question the integrity of our armed services are irresponsible and should find no place in public life.”
In a seeming reference to the Telengana dispute, he said while it is natural for a democracy to argue with itself, “healthy differences of opinion must not lead to an unhealthy strife within our polity. Passions are rising over whether we should have smaller states to extend equitable development to all parts of a state. A debate is legitimate, but it should conform to democratic norms.The politics of divide and rule has extracted a heavy price on our sub-continent. If we do not work together, nothing ever will work.”
Mukherjee said while the economy is showing signs of revival, it is up to the young to change and prepare the country. India is a history of ideas, philosophy, intellect, craft, innovation and experience, he said.