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President supports note ban, pitches for electoral reforms in R-day eve address

President Pranab Mukherjee on Wednesday batted strongly for simultaneous elections to Parliament and Assemblies and backed the demonetisation drive, two issues on which the Government has focused its attention

india Updated: Jan 25, 2017 23:23 IST
Saubhadra Chatterji
Saubhadra Chatterji
Hindustan Times
Pranab Mukherjee,President,Simultaneous election
President Pranab Mukherjee addressing the nation on the eve of 68th Republic Day at Rashtrapati Bhavan in New Delhi on Wednesday. (PTI Photo)

The government’s objective was the happiness of people and not the glory of the rulers, President Pranab Mukherjee said in his Republic Day eve address in which he also pitched for simultaneous Lok Sabha and assembly polls.

In the customary address to the nation, the President on Wednesday said one of his predecessors left a framed note which read, “The objective of government in peace and in war is not the glory of rulers or races but the happiness of the common man.”

That happiness, he said, should be the touchstone of public policy as it is “equally the outcome of economic and non-economic parameters”.

The note, said sources, was left by late APJ Abdul Kalam.

Mukherjee’s remarks come as cash crunch brought in by demonetisation begins to ease after weeks of snaking queues outside banks and ATM kiosks.

Though demonetisation “immobilised” black money and corruption, it “may have led to temporary slowdown of economic activity”, the President said, expressing hope cashless transactions would bring in transparency.

Mukherjee, whose term ends in July, also made a case for electoral reforms.

“The time is also ripe for a constructive debate on electoral reforms and a return to the practice of the early decades after independence when elections to Lok Sabha and state assemblies were held simultaneously,” he said.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi, too, has called for a debate on holding the elections together, to save money and smoothen decision-making that is disrupted every time the poll code kicks in.

It was for the election commission to take the exercise forward, the President said.

Read: Full speech of President Pranab Mukherjee’s address on Republic Day eve

With Parliament’s budget session starting Monday, Mukherjee urged both the government and the Opposition to focus on debate, discussion and decision making.

The remarks assume significance as the last session was washed out over demonetisation.

“We have a noisy democracy…The depth and breadth of our democracy sparkles in the regular elections in panchayati raj institutions. And yet, our legislatures lose sessions to disruptions when they should be debating and legislating on issues of importance,” Mukherjee said.

While talking about tolerance and strong action against terrorism, the President laid special emphasis on job creation, mentioning the jobs and employment five times in his speech.

“Youth today are brimming with hope and aspirations. They look for a job as well as a purpose in life. Lack of opportunities leads to frustration and unhappiness which manifests itself in anger, anxiety, stress and aberrations in behaviour.”

India’s pluralism and diversity were its greatest strength. “Our tradition has always celebrated the argumentative Indian not the intolerant Indian,” he said.

India celebrates its 68th Republic Day on Thursday.

First Published: Jan 25, 2017 19:54 IST