“It is the most magnificent Magna Carta of socio-economic change”

The federal structure of the country is not sustainable unless there is development in States, President Pranab Mukherjee said in Kolkata on Friday.

Speaking at a civic reception accorded to him by the West Bengal government on his first visit to his home State as President, Mr. Mukherjee said the federal arrangement was one of the “basic structures” of the Constitution.

“If we want to take the nation forward then we have to preserve the Constitution,” he said, adding the Constitution and Indian democracy had stood the test of time.

Recalling the words of the former Prime Minister of England, Anthony Eden, he said the Indian Constitution “is the most magnificent Magna Carta of socio-economic transformation. I believe this with all my heart and soul.”

Democracy in the country had survived over five decades not for a few political leaders but because the people had strengthened the country’s democratic set-up.

“I am literally overwhelmed,” Mr. Mukherjee told the congregation, adding the public reception would make him more humble rather than boost his ego.

“I am familiar with most of the faces in the crowd and call many of them by their first name,” he said, speaking about his five decade-long association with the city.

Governor M.K. Narayanan described the occasion as a “rarest of rare moments in the history of a State when one of its sons has risen to the post of the President and was felicitated in such a manner.” He described Mr. Mukherjee as an “erudite scholar President … closely associated with every building block of the country’s economic growth.”

“So long as he is the President, our democracy will remain protected,” Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee said, wishing him a long and healthy life.

“The son of the soil has returned home,” Ms. Banerjee said, adding she would preserve the memories of the felicitation ceremony. She recalled her long association with Mr. Mukherjee and said the feeling that he is the President of the country had still not sunk in.

Eminent artists, representatives of the sporting fraternity and leading businessmen felicitated Mr. Mukherjee.