In his Republic Day eve speech, President Pranab Mukherjee asked the EC to carry forward the idea of simultaneous polls in consultation with political parties
New Delhi: President Pranab Mukherjee on Wednesday endorsed the idea of conducting simultaneous elections to the Lok Sabha and state assemblies, adding that the time was ripe for a constructive debate on electoral reforms. The Election Commission should take the exercise forward in consultation with political parties, he said.
Speaking on the eve of the 68th Republic Day, the President said there was a need to acknowledge that systems were not perfect, and that imperfections must be recognized and rectified.
“The time is ripe for a constructive debate on electoral reforms and a return to the practice of the early decades after Independence when elections to Lok Sabha and state assemblies were held simultaneously. It is for the Election Commission to take this exercise forward in consultation with political parties," he said.
Mukherjee, in his speech, acknowledged that while demonetization had led to a temporary slowdown of economic activity, it would improve transparency.
“Demonetisation, while immobilizing black money and fighting corruption, may have led to temporary slowdown of economic activity. As more and more transactions become cashless, it will improve the transparency of the economy," Mukherjee said.
The President emphasized that the Indian economy was performing well despite the challenging global economic conditions and in the first half of 2016-17 grew at a rate of 7.2%, the same as last year, showing sustained recovery.
“We are firmly on the path of fiscal consolidation and our inflation level is within comfort zone. Though our exports are yet to pick up, we have managed a stable external sector with sizeable foreign exchange reserves," Mukherjee said.
He stressed that the war on poverty was not yet over as the economy was yet to grow at over 10% for an extended period of time to make a significant dent on poverty. “One-fifth of our countrymen still remain below the poverty line...We have to work harder to provide enhanced employment opportunities to our youth," he added.
In the course of his speech, President also pointed out that India’s pluralism was its greatest strength.
“Our tradition has always celebrated the argumentative Indian, not the intolerant Indian. Multiple views, thoughts and philosophies have competed with each other peacefully for centuries in our country. A wise and discerning mind is necessary for democracy to flourish. More than the unison of ideas, a healthy democracy calls for conformity to the values of tolerance, patience and respect for others," he said.
The President also spoke about India’s stability despite being surrounded by troubled regions.
“From a population of 360 million in 1951, we are now a 1.3 billion strong nation. Even then, our per capita income has shown a ten-fold increase, poverty ratio has declined by two-thirds, average life expectancy has more than doubled, and literacy rate has shown a four-fold increase. We are today the fastest growing amongst the major economies of the world," he said.
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