President Pranab Mukherjee is leaving office after a fruitful 5 years in which he played guardian to two different types of governments – first by the Congress-led UPA and another BJP-led NDA. His tenure was not marked by any controversy. Though President Mukherjee came from a Congress background, he apparently shared a cordial relationship with Prime Minister Narendra Modi-led NDA government at the Centre. On many occasions, President Mukherjee praised PM Modi, while on some he left hints for the government on issues that needed immediate attention.
Here we take a look at five speeches of President Mukherjee in which he revealed what he felt of PM Modi and the Centre:
1. PM Modi is driving transformational changes; Farewell speech on July 23, 2017
President Mukherjee said, “In these five years, my principal responsibility was to function as the guardian of the Constitution. As I had said on oath, I strived to preserve, protect and defend our Constitution, not just in word but also in spirit.” Mukherjee said he benefited from the advice and cooperation of the PM. “…I greatly benefited from the advice and co-operation extended by Prime Minister Modi at every step. With passion and energy, he is driving transformational changes in the country. I will carry with me fond memories of our association and his warm and courteous behaviour.”
2. PM Modi is a quick learner; India Today Conclave, March 17
The President heaped praise on Modi. “One can win the election by a majority but you need consensus to rule – This aspect of PM Modi is very good. PM Modi has his own way of dealing with things and we must give him credit for that”. He added the PM is a very good learner”.
However, he also reminded everyone to take guard against majoritarianism at a time when BJP has emerged as the largest and most powerful party in the country. “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.
3. No room for intolerant Indian; March 2, K.S Rajamony memorial lecture in Kochi
President Mukherjee reminded the Centre about rising level of intolerance. Without taking the name of PM Modi or the Centre, the President said, “We must be conscious of the fact that our democracy requires constant nurturing. At no cost should we allow the exploitation of the fault lines. Those who spread violence must remember that Buddha, Ashoka and Akbar are remembered as heroes in history; not Hitler or Genghis Khan.
“There should be no room in India for the intolerant Indian. India has been since ancient times a bastion of free thought, speech and expression. Our society has always been characterized by the open contestation of diverse schools of thought and debate as well as discussion. Freedom of speech and expression is one of the most important fundamental rights guaranteed by our Constitution. There must be space for legitimate criticism and dissent.”
4. Demonetisation is good, time for electoral reform; January 25
President Mukherjee praised Demonetisation initiative of the Centre and also PM Modi’s electoral reform vision in the Parliament. “Demonetization, while immobilizing black money and fighting corruption, may have led to temporary slowdown of economic activity. As more and more transactions become cashless, it will improve the transparency of the economy,” he said.
On electoral reforms, the President said, “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. It is for the Election Commission to take this exercise forward in consultation with political parties.”
5. Caution against suffering due to demonetisation; January 5, 2017 in Parliament
Though President Mukherjee had earlier welcomed demonetisation, he cautioned the country against the troubles caused by the surprise initiative of the Centre. “Demonetization, while immobilizing black money and fighting corruption, may lead to temporary slowdown of the economy. We all will have to be extra careful to alleviate the suffering of the poor which might become unavoidable for the expected progress in the long term.
“While I appreciate the thrust on transition from entitlement approach to an entrepreneurial one for poverty alleviation, I am not too sure that the poor can wait that long. They need to get succour here and now, so that they can also participate actively in the national march towards a future devoid of hunger, unemployment and exploitation. The recent package announced by the Prime Minister will provide some relief,” he said.