Parliament has become an arena of combat: President Pranab Mukherjee

New Delhi: In a blunt message to the political class, President Pranab Mukherjee tonight said Parliament has been converted into an "arena of combat rather than debate" and warned that "leaves" of democracy "are beginning to wilt".

"On the fertile ground laid by our Constitution, India has blossomed into a vibrant democracy. The roots are deep but the leaves are beginning to wilt. It is time for renewal," he said 69th Independence Day-eve address to the nation.

The President's comments come against the backdrop of a washed out Monsoon session of Parliament which ended yesterday in bitter acrimony between the ruling NDA combine and Congress which was backed by some other opposition parties.

Reacting to the address, Prime Minister Narendra Modi tweeted, "an insightful address by Rashtrapatiji". The President said, "If the institutions of democracy are under pressure, it is time for serious thinking by people
and their parties."

Expressing concern over the apparent fractious politics and Parliament, he said "If we do not act now, will our successors seven decades hence remember us with the respect and admiration we have for those who shaped the Indian dream in 1947? The answer may not be comfortable but the question has to be asked."

Asserting that the most precious gift of the Constitution is democracy, the President said, "our institutions are the infrastructure of this idealism. The finest inheritance needs constant care for preservation.

"The finest inheritance needs constant care of preservation. Our institutions of democracy are under stress.

The Parliament has been converted into an arena of combat rather than debate."

Referring to social harmony, Mukherjee said Indian democracy is "creative" because it is plural but diversity must be nourished with tolerance and patience. "Vested interests chip away at social harmony, in an attempt to erode many centuries of secularism. In an age of instant communication through ever-improving technology, we must remain vigilant to ensure that the devious designs of a few never overcome the essential oneness of our people."

He said the rule of law is sacrosanct for both government and people but society is also protected by something greater than law -- humanity.

Mukherjee quoted Mahatma Gandhi "you must not lose faith in humanity. Humanity is an ocean; if a few drops of the ocean are dirty, the ocean does not become dirty".

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