Setting the tone for the upcoming general elections, President Ram Nath Kovind on Friday, in his address on the eve of the country’s 70th Republic Day, urged voters to perform the 'sacred act' of voting. He said that elections are a milestone in the journey towards fulfilling the aspirations of our people and building a developed country.

During his 17-minute speech, President Kovind stressed on the 'spirit of inclusiveness', which was key to the country’s development and that pluralism was the country’s greatest strength.

"The ideas and idealism of our democracy will come into full force. Once more, as we do every five years, voters will deliver their verdict and write their destiny. This year’s election will be the first when voters born in the 21st Century will contribute to electing a new Lok Sabha," he said.

General elections for 543 Lok Sabha seats are due to be held before June this year. With the elections a few months away, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), which is currently in power, and opposition parties have begun campaigning.

"An election is not just a political exercise. An election is a collective call to wisdom and a collective call to action. It represents a renewal and a recommitment to the goals and hopes of a shared and egalitarian society," he said.

He added that India’s pluralism was its greatest strength and it was a greatest example to the world and this was not just a “once-in-a-generation moment – it is a once-in-a-century moment".

"This country belongs to each of us and to all of us – every group and every community, every region and every identity. It belongs to every citizen and every individual. The ‘Indian model’ rests on a tripod of diversity, democracy and development. We cannot choose one above the other; we must have all three and we will have all three," he said.

Commenting on the recently passed constitutional amendment Bill which grants 10% reservation in jobs and educational institutions to economically weaker sections of the general category, the president said,

"In this context, the recent constitutional amendment to provide special facilities for talented children from poorer families is another step to an India of our dreams – and of Gandhiji’s dreams."

Speaking about the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government's work, President Kovind said that the country was at the doorstep of eliminating extreme poverty for the first time, a programme of universal and equitable healthcare had begun to be rolled out, and a greater number of Indians than ever previously had access to proper housing, with modern sanitation and electricity. 

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