…Is President Pranab Mukherjee’s He may be considered one of India’s worst finance ministers in recent times but the former North Block resident has delivered the finest speech delivered by a President in recent times (and which may well be the finest speech since the one Rajendra Prasad delivered in 1947.
And so, while the airwaves and servers are full of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi’s speeches, anyone looking for plainspeak would do well to look at Mukherjee’s speech, delivered on the eve of Independence Day.
He could have well titled it, Once We Were Giants.
“Are we headed in the right direction?” asks Mukherjee, before going on to answer the question, not with rhetoric, but with fact and logic.
“Institutions are a mirror of national character,” he says. “Today, we see widespread cynicism and disillusionment with the governance and functioning of institutions in our country. Our legislatures look more like combat arenas, rather than fora that legislate. Corruption has become a major challenge. The precious resources of the nation are being wasted through indolence and indifference. It is sapping the dynamism of our society. We need to correct this regression.”
In short, the answer Mukherjee provides to his original question: NO.
But Mukherjee isn’t done yet. He goes on to define the ideal qualities of Parliament (“that debates, discusses, and decides”), judiciary (“that gives justice without delays”), leadership (“committed to the nation”), state (“that inspires confidence among people”), and media and citizens (“who even as they claim their rights, are equally committed to their responsibilities”).
Indeed, the entire speech merits a reading.
Mukherjee goes on to weigh in on the importance of inclusion, the growth versus redistribution debate, reforms, entitlements, and conservation. He tells Pakistan (although he doesn’t name it) that India’s “patience has limits”. And he reminds voters that a general election is around the corner, an “opportunity to elect a stable government which will ensure security and economic development”.
That may well be a reminder to parties, including the Congress, of the importance of his own role in 2014 (when the general election is scheduled), should no party or political formation win a clear majority (as seems likely at this point in time).