President indeed!

FPJ BureauUpdated: Sunday, June 02, 2019, 01:54 AM IST
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It was only to be expected that Pranab Mukherjee, the first President of India from West Bengal, would invoke the great Bengali icon Netaji Subash Chandra Bose in his maiden address to the nation on the eve of the Independence Day. Mukherjee reca

lled how Netaji had said at the 51st session of the Indian National Congress, an omnibus freedom movement then, in 1938 that hunger, illiteracy and disease were the three biggest challenges. What the 13th head of the Republic did not say but only implied was that success on all three fronts was only partial and we had to go a long way before these scourges could be vanished from this ancient land. Mukherjee in his address covered all the bases, namely, poverty, economic growth, popular protests against corruption, infrastructure, agriculture, education, healthcare, etc. How a short hop from the North Block to Rashtrapati Bhawan can overnight transform one from a partisan pugilist in the overcrowded political arena into an elder statesman, dispensing goody- goody advice to all comers.

Unlike his predecessor who felt overwhelmed by the onerous demands of the presidential office, Mukherjee can be relied upon to handle it with confidence and competence.

His sure- footedness came through his maiden address to the nation on Tuesday evening.

He addressed all major issues confronting the nation and sought to apply the healing touch, whether it was the on- going Assam trouble or the anti- corruption protests. He wanted a re- look at the Assam Accord, suggesting that it had outlived its utility. He warned that anti- corruption protests should not spiral out of control and undermine the institutional framework the founding fathers had provided for this great country. In particular, he called Parliament the soul of India – the ~ atama~ , and warned that nothing should be done to undermine its power and prestige. Mukherjee also had a message for those in power: alt39alt39alt39alt39authorityalt39 should take care not to turn alt39alt39alt39alt39authoritarian.alt39 These wise words were becoming of a president who was conscious of his role as a friend, philosopher and guide to prime minister. Of course, Mukherjee as President would be conscious of the constitutional boundaries within which he was expected to perform.

But even within those boundaries he would be able to achieve much since he has brought with him a wealth of rich and variegated experience and his ability to tap sources across the entire political spectrum. What a refreshing change from the miserable mess that had tenanted Rashtrapati Bhawan before him!

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