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Peaceful protests will deepen democratic roots: Pranab

Former President Pranab Mukherjee.

Former President Pranab Mukherjee.   | Photo Credit: V.V. Krishnan

Democracy thrives on listening, deliberating, discussing, arguing and even dissent, says ex-President

In an obvious reference to the the ongoing peaceful protests against the Citizenship (Amendment) Act and a National Register of Citizens exercise in the future, former President Pranab Mukherjee said on Thursday such agitations would lead to a deepening of the democratic roots.

Mr. Mukherjee was speaking at the first annual Sukumar Sen Memorial lecture organised by the Election Commission of India in honour of the first Chief Election Commissioner of India.

“Indian democracy has been tested time and again. The last few months have witnessed people come out on the streets in large numbers, particularly the young to voice out their views on issues which in their opinion are important. Their assertion and belief in the Constitution of India are particularly heartening to see. Consensus is the lifeblood of democracy. Democracy thrives on listening, deliberating, discussing, arguing and even dissent,” he said.

In the written version of his speech, which he said he did not read out in its entirety due to health reasons, he said: “I believe the present wave of largely peaceful protests that have gripped the country shall again enable the further deepening of our democratic roots.”

Complimenting the ECI on its achievements, Mr. Mukherjee said challenges remained before the electoral system. He said the ECI embargoes sanction and implementation of development projects during elections, which impacts administration. He suggested that the Model Code of Conduct could be amended to ease the restrictions. He spoke of the number of parliamentary seats saying if the freeze was lifted, it could go up to 1,000 Lok Sabha seats. On women’s representation, he called for the “immediate passage of the Women’s Reservation Bill”.

On the role of the ECI, he said: “The Election Commission like its peers in other fields has served its purpose well, and any attempt at its denigration will amount to denigrating the electoral process itself. There can be no room for speculation that challenges the very basis of our democracy.”

Marking 70 years since its inception, the ECI had decided to start an annual lecture series from this year in the memory of Sukumar Sen, who had conducted the first two Lok Sabha elections in 1952 and 1957.

Chief Election Commissioner Sunil Arora said the objective of the lecture series was to make a positive intervention in the democratic and electoral discourse.

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Printable version | Feb 28, 2020 3:10:53 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/peaceful-protests-will-deepen-democratic-roots-pranab/article30636132.ece

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