Amid Citizenship Row, Pranab Mukherjee's Caution On "Majoritarian Rule"

The former President pointed out that while people have given "strong majorities" to various parties since 1952, not a single one has been elected with over 50 per cent vote share.

Pranab Mukherjee was delivering an address at the second Atal Bihari Vajpayee Memorial Lecture.

Highlights

  • Poll majority gives a party right to form "stable" government, he said
  • Pranab Mukherjee termed ex-PM Atal Bihari Vajpayee as a "visionary"
  • He was speaking at the Atal Bihari Vajpayee Memorial Lecture
New Delhi:

A numerical majority in the elections only gives a political party the right to form a "stable" government and not a "majoritarian" one, former President Pranab Mukherjee said in the backdrop of raging protests against the amended Citizenship Act on Monday.

"A numerical majority in elections gives you the right to make a stable government. The lack of popular majority forbids you from (becoming) a majoritarian government. That is the message and essence of our parliamentary democracy," he said in his address during the second Atal Bihari Vajpayee Memorial Lecture at New Delhi's India Foundation.

Mr Mukherjee also pointed out that while people have given "strong majorities" to various parties since 1952, not a single one has been elected with over 50 per cent vote share.

The ruling BJP had won 38 per cent of the total votes in the Lok Sabha elections, which -- while being more than any other party -- did not amount to being a popular majority. The opposition Congress still holds the record for the highest vote share polled in an election, with 39.5 per cent in 1989.

Mr Mukherjee termed former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee as a "visionary" with a good understanding of the country and its people. "India and Indians intrinsically cannot digest bigotry and division over a sustained period. We are a nation of 12,69,219 square miles, practising seven major religions, speaking 122 languages and 1,600 dialects in their everyday lives... represented by the Constitution of India. Atalji accepted this reality. He shaped his vision for everyone, seeking to take everyone along even though many may not have agreed with his ideological inclinations," he said.

A series of violent protests -- many of them involving students -- have broken out ever since President Ram Nath Kovind gave his assent for the Citizenship Amendment Bill on Wednesday night. Critics say that the law, which aims to expedite citizenship for non-Muslim migrants from three neighbouring countries, goes against the secular principles of the constitution.

Earlier on Monday, Union Home Minister Amit Shah appealed to students protesting the new citizenship law to "study" the amended Citizenship Act, saying that "there was no provision to take away the citizenship of any Indian". He also claimed that the protesters were being misled by certain "political elements" who were trying to further their own political goals, and accused the Congress, the Aam Aadmi Party and the Trinamool Congress of "creating an atmosphere of violence".

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