Members of the Parliament bid farewell to outgoing President Pranab Mukherjee at a gala ceremony in the Central Hall of Parliament on 23 July 2017.
Mukherjee was received at the ceremony by Vice President Hamid Ansari, Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Lok Sabha Speaker Sumitra Mahajan and Parliamentary Affairs Minister Ananth Kumar. The leaders took the opportunity to recall Mukherjee’s immense contribution in upholding democratic values.
Vice-President Hamid Ansari in his speech praised Mukherjee for his unshakable belief in the idea of India and for the manner in which he essayed the role of the president. Ansari said that Mukherjee brought great distinction and dignity to the top office and that his views on national and international issues have enhanced the stature of the office.
He further added that Mukherjee's rich political legacy holds valuable lessons for Parliamentarians and people and it will help guide the future generation in public life.
In her address, Lok Sabha Speaker Sumitra Mahajan said that during his tenure, Mukherjee besides discharging his constitutional responsibilities with dignity and grace, he has effectively articulated the concern before the nation. She said that the President has brought Presidential focus on the centrality of education for human development and imperative of research and raising the quality of higher education.
Mahajan also presented Mukherjee with a coffee table book signed by all the MPs. The occasion saw in attendance several Union Ministers including former Prime Ministers Manmohan Singh and H D Devegowda, Congress President Pranab Mukherjee, Veteran BJP leader L K Advani, JD(U) leader Sharad Yadav and SP leader Mulayam Singh Yadav.
While expressing gratitude to the parliamentarians for the farewell, the outgoing President highlighted the importance of Parliament and the voice of each Member of the Parliament, cautioning against frequent disruptions that were leading to a decline in the Parliamentary time devoted to legislation.
Reminiscing his years as an MP, he said, "During my years in Parliament, I learnt that it stands for debate, discussion and dissent. I also learnt that disruptions hurt the opposition more.” He added that the disruptions denied the opportunity to the opposition to raise the concern of the people.
Stressing the need for scrutiny and adequate discussion before the passage of any legislation, he said, when Parliament fails to discharge its law making role or enacts laws without discussion, it breaches the trust reposed in it by the people. He further described the passage of GST as a shining example of cooperative federalism which speaks volumes for the maturity of India's Parliament.
Mukherjee also spoke out against the use of ordinance route for any monetary matter. "The ordinance route should be used only in compelling circumstances and there should be no recourse to ordinances on monetary matters. If a matter is deemed urgent, the panel should be made aware of the situation mandated to present its report in stipulated time,” he said.
Praising Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the President said that the advice and cooperation extended by Modi benefited him and that Modi was driving a transformational change with great passion and energy.
Further, Mukherjee said that as the President, he has tried to protect, preserve and defend the Constitution which represents hope and aspirations of billions of Indians.
He concluded by saying, "I leave this magnificent building with a rainbow of memories and a sense of fulfilment and happiness of having served the people of this country as their humble servant."
Mukherjee, born on 11 December 1935, was elected as the 13th President of India in July 2012. His political career, spanning over six decades started in 1969 under the then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi who helped him get elected to Rajya Sabha, the upper house of the Parliament. He has in the past occupied several ministerial portfolios in the Government of India including Defence, External Affairs, Finance and Leader of the House in the Lok Sabha.
The eighty one-year-old, however, decided not to run for re-election in 2017 and to retire from politics due to health complications relating to old age. His term expires on 25 July 2017, the same day when newly elected President, Ram Nath Kovind will assume charge.
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