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President Mukherjee's address to the nation on Independence Day eve was impressive
President Pranab Mukherjee addressed the nation on the eve of India's 67th Independence Day, on 14 August, 2013. He appeared to be very emphatic, authoritative and extraordinarily impressive. Here is the part of the speech and its analysis.

As almost all former Indian Presidents have been doing, Mr. Mukherjee quoted Mahatma Gandhi in the beginning of his speech. He said that Gandhi had advised us to avoid politics without principles, wealth without work, pleasure without conscience, knowledge without character, commerce without morality, science without humanity, and worship without sacrifice. Indians had to pay heed to his advice as they worked towards building a modern democracy. The ideals of patriotism, compassion, tolerance, self-restraint, honesty, discipline and respect for women had to be converted into a living force.

He further talked about governing the Indian society by saying that institutions were a mirror of national character. He said that these days, Indians have seen widespread cynicism and disillusionment with the governance and functioning of institutions in the country. Indian legislatures looked more like combat arenas. Corruption has become a major challenge. He added that the precious resources of the nation were being wasted through indolence and indifference. It was sapping the dynamism of Indian society. Indians needed to correct this regression.

Then, Mr. Mukherjee talked about his favorite topic: education and educational institutions. He said that a proper re-ordering of the society could be brought about through the educational system. Indians could not aspire to be a world class power without a single world class university.

After that he showed some nostalgia, when he recalled ancient and medieval Indian history, which according to experts recorded that Indians were the cynosure of the world once. Takshashila, Nalanda, Vikramashila, Valabhi, Somapura and Odantapuri comprised the ancient university system that dominated the world for eighteen hundred years beginning Sixth Century before Common Era (BCE). As per Mr. Mukherjee it was a magnet for the finest minds and scholars in the world. He urged Indians to revive that glorious past in this age.

Mr. Mukherjee further added that there was a direct relationship between a successful democracy and a successful economy, for Indians were a people-driven nation. In principle people served their interests best, when they participated in decision- making at the grass-root levels and at other forms of local government in both urban and rural parts of India.

He told the nation that in their utmost interests, Indians had to rapidly empower the local bodies with functions, functionaries and finances to improve their performance. Faster growth had given Indians the required resources, but larger outlays had not translated into better outcomes. He cautioned that without inclusive governance, Indians could not achieve inclusive growth.

He further added that for a developing country of more than 1.2 billion people, the debate between growth and redistribution was vital. While growth built the scope for redistribution, redistribution sustained growth over time: both were equally important. A disproportionate emphasis on any one, at the expense of the other, could have adverse consequences for the nation. He then emphasized about importance of removing poverty for mutual interests and said that India had enough resources to overcome this global malice.

Mr. Mukherjee than talked about general elections and asked people to vote for a stable government which would ensure security and economic development for all possible people without any bias and discrimination.

He then concluded his speech by quoting from the great classic Bhagvada Gita, where the preacher Krishna, who espoused fair values, propounded his views and then said to Arjuna and through him to the entire Hindu world, "yatha icchasi tatha kuru": even as you choose, so you do. Ishvara did not wish to impose his views on Hindus. Ishvara had presented to Hindus what he thought was right. Now it was for Hindu conscience, for their judgment, for their mind to decide what was right.

The fact is that speech was very impressive and upright. Presidents of India do not show any bias towards anyone and their speeches are almost universalistic in appeal. Let’s take Mr. Mukherjee’s highlighted parts of speech presented here point by point.

The fact is that world has changed a lot since the era of Gandhi even though his principles about non-violence and tolerance may be quite relevant today as well. The fact is that politics is a contest between opposing principles, it is altogether a different thing that people do not converge on idealism. Different sections of Indian society are at different levels of development stages and therefore, their demands vary.

If Indian Union government strives to eliminate poverty at mass level then it would have to forget idealism: it needs to opt for more wealth generation while removing inequalities to the extent, possible by proper distribution and subsidies through tax collection and by printing and borrowing currencies.

There is hardly anyone, who generates wealth without working: the world has become very complex and the present is something even Rama and Krishna could not have predicted. Commerce is based on selfishness, homogenizing and institutionalizing the globe and predatory expansive principles: there is hardly any scope for morality.

For all practical purpose corruption is reality of daily Indian life and permitted by the dominant culture of this nation. The only way corruption could be tackled in India is by generating huge primary wealth and spreading it to the masses in as equitable manner as possible as Indians led by Hindus would always aspire for better and higher lives and they would not mind much, many malpractices to achieve those.   

As far as his nostalgia for ancient glory is concerned he did not try to quantify things but its intent was good and unifying. It is the pride in India’s ancient past, which unites both the Congress and BJP. But the fact is that Mr. Mukherjee also talked about various ills in Indian social system as well.

The fact is that without Brahmanism and related ritualism, Hindus could not have contested and eventually defeated Buddhism, could not have tolerated the dominance of Muslims and survived and could not have adapted to anglicized way of life once British arrived.

Brahmanism was, is and will be the life-line for Hindus. But, at the same time Brahmanism is the basis of upper caste values: without those values Hindus could not have created a quasi-modern state while maintaining the dominance of Hindus over other minorities. Such has left many discriminated. The fact is that Brahmanism and related ritualism is partly to be credited for the glory that Mr. Mukherjee is very proud of.

The fact is that economic progress is the most required thing for Indians and it is the constant and continuous growth that would unite Indians and hide many of their social and other stigmas. There is indeed a direct relationship between a successful democracy and successful economy. But the fact is that except for providing universal and equal adult suffrage there was no other way to govern India.

Equal voting rights for all are mandatory for governing India at the smallest and the biggest levels simultaneously. Therefore, economic success may not be that highly correlated with the functioning of democracy in India and efficiency factor needs to be included to achieve higher growth. The fact is that for its own betterment and for higher stability, India needs to simultaneously delete and add many inertias. Poverty elimination is a must for a big country like India.

Mr. Mukherjee throughout his speech was apolitical, but in the end he showed some bias for his Congress party, which was nothing but natural, obvious and understandable. When Krishna said to Arjuna that he left the option to him, Ishvara was not magnanimous but diplomatic and clever. If full Gita is read, there is hardly any option left for Arjuna and Brahmins. Krishna did not preach a solipsistic preaching. It was fatalistic, pre-determining, ascetic, self-denying and ego-suppressing. Therefore, except for the last part of speech Mr. Mukherjee was almost correct and right up to the mark.

Editorial NOTE: This article is categorized under Opinion Section. The views expressed in this article are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of In case you have a opposing view, please click here to share the same in the comments section.
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