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Pranab sees ‘new’ force

New Delhi, Dec. 19: President Pranab Mukherjee today said “participatory democracy movements like Anna Hazare’s” had added a “new dimension” to India’s democratic structure, acknowledging the influence of activists on law-making a day after the Lokpal bill was passed.

“To my mind, it is opening a new dimension of our democratic structures which we shall have to address,” Mukherjee told the Intelligence Bureau Centenary Endowment Lecture, making a rare departure from his text to touch on an issue big parties have started debating only recently.

The message wasn’t lost on Mukherjee’s audience and home minister Sushil Kumar Shinde, who was on the dais. It came a day after Parliament passed the Hazare-championed Lokpal bill and in the middle of a debate on the success of Arvind Kejriwal’s Aam Aadmi Party (AAP).

The President recalled that the Prime Minister had appointed him to head a group of ministers for talks with Hazare’s team “at the height” of the Lokpal movement in 2011.

Then, looking at his listeners, he asked “what the new dimension” was, before explaining himself. Earlier, he said, democracy meant people chose their representatives, who made laws and administered them. “At the end of the stipulated period, there was an account from them on how successful they (the lawmakers) were.”

The President suggested that cycle needn’t be the norm anymore. To make his point, he said nobody could think a decade ago that activists or NGOs would demand a legislation.

“But (now), they insist that you work to adopt a particular model. We shall have to address this, we cannot keep it under the carpet. These types of challenges we shall have to be ready to answer.”

Soon, realising he had veered off, Mukherjee said “I have exceeded my brief” and returned to his text.

He did not mention Kejriwal or the AAP — both trace their roots to Hazare’s Lokpal movement — but dropped hints how such mass-driven forces were changing the face of politics. Both the Congress and the BJP had seen Kejriwal as a mere “spoiler” before the Delhi polls, refusing to concede he was swaying voters.

The President also dwelt on another burning issue —new states. The reference came at a time of sharp divisions and acrimony over the Telangana bill in the Andhra Assembly where it is pending after being sent by the Centre.

“India had failed to keep 450 million (45crore) people together at Partition and the challenge was to keep 125 crore people together. Demand for new states will have to be addressed politically, administratively and intellectually.”