“My political science teacher taught me the three Ds essential for democracy – debate and discussion, dissent and finally decision – but when I retired on the day of my election as President I found another D injected in between – disruption,” rued President Pranab Mukherjee.
The President was speaking after inaugurating the ‘The Hindu Centre for Politics and Public Policy’, an institute that has been set up by the publishers of The Hindu, for undertaking research, promoting dialogue and debate and holding track II type round tables on internal conflicts.
The Centre was inaugurated by unveiling a plaque at a function in Rashtrapati Bhavan, attended by UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi, senior BJP leader L.K. Advani, former Prime Minister H.D. Deve Gowda, CPI (M) General Secretary Prakash Karat, Congress Vice-President Rahul Gandhi, several Union Ministers, Members of Parliament and a host of dignitaries.
Pointing out that while disruptions cannot be brushed aside, Mukherjee, who has been a Parliamentarian for over four decades, said questions are being raised on whether they serve any purpose.
“Sometimes there are questions on whether disruptions actually put pressure on the Government or do they simply deny MPs a chance to express their views,” he said, adding when disruptions interrupt the question hour, they tend to be advantageous to the Government.
The President made a reference to the diligence with which Parliamentary work was undertaken in the years succeeding India’s independence. He said while Parliament was the sole authority to give approval for expenditure of the Government, it was unfortunate that not enough time was being devoted to discussions on financial matters in Parliament.
Acknowledging The Hindu’s participation in India’s struggle for independence, Mukherjee said there was need for a research centre where there could be dialogue and discussions and where the challenges that India confronts can be analysed in an objective manner from different perspectives.
“The Hindu Centre could be the most appropriate forum for such discussions,” he said.
Referring to the centre, former Editor-in-Chief of The Hindu N. Ram said there was a great deal of superficiality and dilettantism not just in mainstream Indian journalism, but also in public discourse, on key issues that matter.
“The way the Justice J.S. Verma committee went about its work and came up with what could be a game-changing contribution within the 30-day deadline it set for itself is an inspiration and a model for all of us,” Ram added.
Director of the Centre Malini Parthasarathy said the centre should be an agent of change, rather than solely engaging in theoretical explorations at a time when there was rising public anger and strong disenchantment with politics and institutions.
“The context in which the idea of the Centre has emerged is the sharp sense of a breakdown of the basic consensus on governance and also an increasing polarisation of the national discourse. We think the Centre should help strengthen the foundational liberal principles that have made this country great,” Parthasarthy said.
N. Ravi, Director Kasturi and Sons, said the Centre can contribute to the political discourse and explore solutions to some of the long-standing problems. It will help transform the power of ideas to utility of practice, he said.