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ormer president Pranab Mukherjee on Thursday came out in support of the “present wave of largely peaceful protests" across the country, saying the stir will deepen India’s democratic roots.

Mukherjee was speaking at the first memorial lecture of India’s first chief election commissioner Sukumar Sen, organized by the Election Commission of India (ECI).

“The last few months have witnessed people come out on the streets in large numbers, particularly the young, to voice their views on issues, which in their opinion, are important. Their assertion and belief in the Constitution of India is particularly heartening to see," Mukherjee said.

“Democracy thrives on listening, deliberating, discussing, arguing and even dissent. I believe the present wave of largely peaceful protests that have gripped the country shall once again enable further deepening of our democratic roots," he added.

While Mukherjee did not specify the Citizenship (Amendment) Act, 2019, or CAA, in his address, his remarks have come amid the protests against the bill. Those opposing the CAA say it is discriminates against Muslims and is unconstitutional.

This is the first time that Mukherjee, formerly a Union minister and senior Congress leader, has made public remarks about the protests.

In his address, the former president said there were three key challenges faced by the ECI. These include a possible amendment to the Model Code of Conduct (MCC) to lift the embargo on development work during its enforcement period, taking steps for ensuring adequate representation of women in Parliament and legislative assemblies, and revisiting the “disproportionately large size of electorate" vis-a-vis the number of public representatives.

“There is a strong case for removing the freeze on the number of seats in the delimitation exercise. Whenever there is a question of removing this freeze, which should ideally increase to about 1,000 Lok Sabha MPs, with a corresponding rise in the number of MPs in the Rajya Sabha, and state legislatures, there are various theories put forward to oppose it," he added.

Mukherjee said any denigration of the ECI amounts to denigrating the electoral process itself. “People’s mandate is sacrosanct and has to be above any iota of reasonable doubt," he added.

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