The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Kalam bares bitter truth

New Delhi, March 21: President A.P.J Abdul Kalam chose the august company of India's political who's who to utter a 'bare' truth: the 'dubious' pursuit of power is taking its toll on the democratic system.

'The arithmetical compulsions of incremental numbers and the alleged tradability of certain legislative seats, won perhaps through means allegedly dubious and undemocratic, have many a time created doubts on our democratic system in the public eye,' the President today told a stunned audience that included Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Opposition leader L.K. Advani.

Kalam did not refer to the shenanigans that played themselves out in the Jharkhand and Goa Assemblies recently but the message was not lost on the political class.

The Prime Minister addressed Kalam's expression of anguish by conceding that an introspection is needed 'without pointing fingers'.

'We need to examine whether we are living up to the standards set by great parliamentarians of the early years of our Independence. It is for us to ensure that we set better standards for the future,' Singh said when it was his turn to speak.

The Prime Minister said when people begin to lose faith in the institution of Parliament, 'this important edifice' would also come under pressure. 'We must not, we must never let this happen,' Singh said.

The President had chosen the occasion for his plainspeak with care ' a ceremony to honour outstanding parliamentarians. Singh was one of the recipients of the award, so was Advani.

What would normally have been a staid sarkari function was transformed into a high-voltage event the moment Kalam began delivering his speech in the central hall of Parliament. 'I am sure I have your permission to speak some bare truths which we all know are a fact but would refuse to acknowledge,' Kalam said.

All the formal speeches of the President are approved by the Union cabinet, but today's was written by Kalam himself.

Perhaps keeping in mind the current debate about separation of powers of different organs of the republic, the President established his credentials by saying: 'I have no hesitation in talking to you about them (the bare truths) because I am part of you; I am as much part of Parliament as you all are, and I am as much concerned about the success of our parliamentary system as you all are.'

Kalam, who was forced to summon the Jharkhand governor after the power play there, said: 'When politics degrades itself to political adventurism, the nation would be on the calamitous road to inevitable disaster and ruination. Let us not risk it.'

He also reminded members of legislatures, often seen disrupting proceedings and engaging in indecorous behaviour, that 'in every action of Parliament members, our 540 million youths who are below 25 years of age should see in you great leaders who can be their role models'.

He also indirectly referred to the vitiated political atmosphere. 'We seem to have been working with policies and procedures which are at times based on mistrust. As a result, motivation and empowerment are dampened and suppressed.'

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