President Pranab Mukherjee yesterday hailed Jawaharlal Nehru as the “Jewel of India”, insisting that what the country is today is because of the vision of the first Prime Minister.
“I conclude…saluting and paying my humble respects to Jawahar, the Jewel of India. India is what it is today because of Nehru, his vision and his lifetime of dedication to the nation,” the President said.
Delivering the 46th Jawaharlal Nehru Memorial Lecture on the eve of his 125th birth anniversary, Mukherjee said, “Nehru’s services to India are immeasurable. He was one of the greatest figures of our times…
“If India is a vibrant democracy today, it is because of the foundations laid by Nehru. If India has become the third largest economy…..it is because of the multi-purpose projects, the PSUs and institutions of higher learning established by Nehru,” he said.
Dwelling on Nehru’s contribution to parliamentary democracy in the country, Mukherjee said that the first Prime Minister was aware that the lack of an established opposition meant significant weakness in the system.
“I do not want India to be a country in which millions of people say ‘yes’ to one man, I want a strong opposition,” the President said quoting Nehru.
He recalled that even though there was no formal opposition party during Nehru’s time, the first Prime Minister gave “highest respect” to opposition leaders like Shyama Prasad Mukherjee, Hiren Mukherjee, H V Kamath, A K Gopalan and
Ashok Mehta, all of whom were members of the first Lok Sabha.
Atal Bihari Vajpayee who was elected to the second Lok Sabha and Ram Manohar Lohia who became member of the third Lok Sabha also received “special attention” from Nehru, the President said.
“Nehru’s life and vision, his struggles and his achievements were no less than epic. But it is his deep democratic spirit and practice of a politics vested in the sovereignty of the people that is his most precious legacy to us,” Mukherjee remarked.
The manner in which 66.4 per cent of the country’s 834 million strong electorate exercised their vote in the elections to the 16th Lok Sabha is the “best validation” of Nehru’s efforts in this regard, he said.
Turning to secularism, the President said Nehru was secular to the core. “It was because of Nehru’s consistent efforts that India established itself as a secular state with equal rights for all regardless of their religious affiliation,” he observed.
“Let us celebrate his legacy and draw inspiration from his life to take our nation toward greater and greater glory,” the President said.