Two books released on birth centenary of the former President, R. Venkataraman

The former President, R. Venkataraman, was remembered as a multi-faceted personality, a Constitutionalist and a believer in egalitarianism by speakers at a book release function here on Wednesday.

Releasing the book, “R. Venkataraman – A Centenary Tribute,” Lok Sabha Speaker Meira Kumar said whenever she attends conferences abroad she meets Speakers from developing and developed countries who greatly admire India. “All of them without exception are impressed that despite having a large unmanageable population and complexities, India's democracy has strengthened. A great contribution to strengthen our country's democracy goes to R. Venkataraman.”

Noting that the former President was like a father figure to her, Ms. Kumar said after her father's demise she would meet him whenever she was facing political problems.

“In politics this often is the case, but I would not discuss politics with him. Just meeting him was so energising and rejuvenating. He would say things would pass and that is how our democracy has survived. He was a democrat to the core of his heart.”

The Lok Sabha Speaker said she shudders to think what would have happened to the country if there were no democracy. “Some people say that our system should be changed. What system should we bring in? This is the best system; only a democracy provides a level playing field. The poorest of the poor has only one vote and this also applies to the mightiest and richest person.”

Releasing “Reflections of a Statesman – Selected Post-Presidential Speeches of R. Venkataraman,” Rajya Sabha Ethics Committee Chairman Karan Singh described the former President as a rare remarkable individual. “I admire his intellect. It was always a pleasure to speak to him. When he was President I would meet him quite frequently.”

Noting that Parliament was not a wrestling arena, Dr. Singh said there was urgent need to maintain decorum in the House. “Parliamentarians need to introspect and rise to a certain level of behaviour.”

He said Parliamentarians need to look up to R.V. who was a “great Constitutionalist.”

Earlier, the former West Bengal Governor, Gopalkrishna Gandhi, said the former President was not one thing in Madras, another in New Delhi. “He was not one thing to his voter, another to his Chief Minister, one thing to colleagues, another to the Prime Minister. He was not one thing to the Sankaracharya of Kancheepuram, another to Secretary General of the United Nations Organisation. He was not weak to the strong, he was not strong to the weak.”

Noting that R.V. participated in the unfolding of India's Constitution from a parchment to a living document, Mr. Gandhi said he covered four action-packed decades from being a member of the Provisional Parliament (1950 to 1952) and then President of India from 1987 to 1992.

While admitting that R.V. had affinities and loyalties, Mr. Gandhi said he also had respect for first principles that go beyond oneself. “And these first principles included awareness of the fact that politics is larger than a political party and that the country is larger than politics. This awareness was his greatest asset in the steering of India's Presidency.”

Mr. Gandhi said the manner in which the imponderables of election verdicts will play out in the future was hard to foresee. “But R.V.'s procedures will be a reference point, a benchmark, on which future Presidents can confidently rely.”

The former Attorney General, Soli Sorabjee, and TERI Director-General R. K. Pachauri also spoke on the occasion.

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