Make democracy cleaner, healthier and stronger: Pratibha Patil

J. Balaji

NEW DELHI: President Pratibha Patil on Monday called for determination to fight the impediments, the lacunae and malpractices in the electoral process to make democracy cleaner, healthier and stronger.

“India has impressive democratic credentials, but yet has the challenge of becoming a ‘role model’ for other countries. This requires that we should be aware of the impediments, the lacunae and malpractices in the electoral process. These would have to be removed with determination, to make our democracy cleaner, healthier and stronger,” she said inaugurating the diamond jubilee celebrations of the Election Commission of India here.

Ms. Patil, who released a commemorative postal stamp, stressed on the need to uphold the independence of EC at all times as it was one such body of independent and neutral institutions created to ensure the continued existence of democracy.

She received a book Reinforcing Indian Democracy-Lok Sabha Election 2009 brought out on the occasion and released by Vice-President Hamid Ansari.

Ms. Patil said the three stakeholders in the poll — an independent and impartial electoral machinery; political parties and candidates; and the electorate — must act responsibly. “The conduct of free, fair and impartial elections depends much upon the performance of these three stakeholders.”

“We can be justifiably proud that free and fair elections have been held with regularity in the last six decades. India and democracy have become intertwined concepts and it is hard to imagine one without the other.” The EC not only helped strengthen democracy at home, but also helped to enhance the prestige of India’s institutional mechanisms. “It is for these reasons that the EC has been called upon often, to share its experiences about the conduct of elections with other countries.”

On voting rights, she said that while in many countries different groups, especially women, had to struggle for their voting rights, in India the age-old inequalities were done away with and political equality established.

Mr. Ansari, referring to the EC’s celebrations, said it was also a time for introspection. “Six decades [of EC] on, a fair verdict would be that the glass is neither empty nor full but well above the half way mark. We have established and sustained procedural democracy. And yet, Dr. Ambedkar’s foreboding about the contradiction between political equality and social and economic inequality remains valid. The realisation of ‘one person one vote and one vote one value’ continues to be elusive.”

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