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Parting advice

July 26, 2017 08:11 PM

Editorial published in The Tribune on July 26, 2017 

Parting advice

Missed the chance to act, Mr President

A seasoned parliamentarian, the outgoing President, Pranab Mukherjee, is known to weigh his words before uttering them and he must have taken extra caution about what to say in his parting speech. Yet the farewell message was a little odd for the occasion. The President was telling the government not to do something which he had not disapproved of when the occasion demanded. While Mr Mukherjee’s emphasis on “debate, discussion and dissent” and his observation that “disruptions hurt the Opposition more” were all well taken, it was his advice to the government to take the Ordinance route sparingly that has drawn maximum attention.

President’s rule in UP and Bihar. Most of the time the President’s job is ceremonial. It is on such occasions that the worth of the Rashtrapati Bhavan occupant is judged. Pranab Mukherjee was found wanting at times. Only towards the end of his term did he talk of issues not to the government’s liking such as growing intolerance, Parliament turning dysfunctional and constitutional values. It did not add up, Mr Mukherjee.

As President, Mr Mukherjee gave unqualified assent to Ordinances — as many times and as often presented. Not even once did he return to the government for reconsideration any of the crucial recommendations — be it the frequent issue of Ordinances or the imposition of President's rule. The land Ordinance was promulgated thrice. It had replaced the land Bill, which was widely dubbed “anti-farmer” and had remained stuck in the Rajya Sabha before its dilution. Again, the President happily sided with the government in approving the Ordinance that criminalised the holding of Rs 500 and Rs 1000 currency notes beyond December 31, 2016. Despite the nationwide dislocation, loss of jobs and farmer distress it caused without achieving any of the purported gains, the President did not try to satisfy himself, by asking the government or the RBI, whether sufficient arrangements were made for executing such an important policy measure.

The unquestioned approval of President’s rule in the two Opposition-ruled states of Arunachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand also did not enhance his stature. It was finally left to the Supreme Court to right the wrong. His predecessor, K R Narayanan, had sent back Cabinet resolutions seeking President’s rule in UP and Bihar. Most of the time the President’s job is ceremonial. It is on such occasions that the worth of the Rashtrapati Bhavan occupant is judged. Pranab Mukherjee was found wanting at times. Only towards the end of his term did he talk of issues not to the government’s liking such as growing intolerance, Parliament turning dysfunctional and constitutional values. It did not add up, Mr Mukherjee.

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