President Pranab Mukherjee on Friday stressed on the need to guard against “majoritarianism”, saying those in power must take the entire nation along at all times. “Consultation and consensus is the best and often the only way forward,” he said while lauding the speech of Prime Minister Narendra Modi after BJP scored landslide victories in Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand.
“In a Parliamentary democracy, we must always guard against majoritarianism. Those in power must involve and take the entire nation along with them at all times,” Mukherjee said in his speech at a conclave organised by India Toady here.
Appreciating Modi’s felicitation speech following the resounding win, he said, “I was extremely happy to hear Prime Minister Modi speak about the need for humility in the aftermath of his party’s victory in recent elections to Uttar Pradesh and other state assemblies.
“He asserted that while electoral verdicts are determined on the basis of ‘Bahumat’ (majority), the states will be governed on the principle of ‘Sarvamat’ (consensus). This is indeed India’s tradition and what the large majority of our people desire to see in action.”
In the speech circulated at the function, the President also chose to flag the issue of frequent disruption of Parliament, saying “I speak with some anguish because my entire public life has been defined by my role in Parliament.”
“It is, therefore, difficult for me to stand and watch this fundamental pillar of Indian democracy being rendered ineffective.
“In my view, there is absolutely no justification for constant disruption of proceedings, low level of attendance, shrinking in number of days that the Parliament and state legislatures meet as well as the irresponsible manner in which important legislation, including the budget and financial proposals, get passed with hardly any discussion,” he said.
Mukherjee said it was of benefit to both the ruling party and the opposition “to break this vicious cycle” of disruptions and disorderly behaviour and also made an appeal to political leadership across the spectrum to arrive at an agreement that all protests and airing of grievances will be undertaken in a manner that the functioning of Parliament and legislatures are not disrupted.
President Mukherjee also pitched strongly for values and principles enshrined in the Constitution which must be respected by all, especially those in positions of authority and in public life.
“Executive action and legislation must indeed conform to the Constitution, but going beyond that, day-to-day activities of political parties and all those associated with it must also conform to the Constitution and its provisions as interpreted by our judiciary.
“The tendency of individuals and groups taking the law into their own hands should be strongly resisted.” he said.
The progress of a nation, he said, was not possible if it was not united.
“One of the principal lessons India’s history teaches us is that united we stand, divided we fall,” he said, citing instances from India’s freedom struggle.
“It will be impossible for us to achieve the progress that we seek, if in our country man turns against man in the name of religion, caste or politics,” the President said.
In the wake of debates on social media about targeting individuals for having a different opinion, the President said “Free speech and expression is not only guaranteed by our Constitution but has been an important characteristic of our civilisation and tradition.”
Indians, he noted, are known to be argumentative, but never intolerant. In fact, a conclave such as this is one of the best examples of the free debate and discussion that should take place in our society, he said.
Mukherjee, whose five-year term comes to an end in July this year, spoke about the two Prime Ministers — Manmohan Singh and Narendra Modi– with whom he had worked as the first citizen of the country.
“I have learnt a lot from the calm wisdom and great scholarship in the field of economics of Dr. Manmohan Singh, who has been a colleague and friend of long years. I have also been deeply impressed by the focused approach, energy and capacity for hard work of Prime Minister Narendra Modi,” he said.