'Parties for the family, by the family' a threat to democracy: Modi

Says ‘public feting of politicians convicted of corruption’ a matter of grave concern

'Parties for the family, by the family' a threat to democracy: Modi

Narendra Modi. PTI file

Aditi Tandon

Tribune News Service

New Delhi, November 26

Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Friday called for a national awakening against family-based political parties describing outfits controlled and run by families as a danger to Indian democracy.

In wide-ranging remarks on the occasion of the Constitution Day celebrations at the Central Hall of Parliament, the prime minister also flagged the trend of public felicitation of politicians convicted of corruption as a matter of grave concern asking if this was the society we wanted for our youngsters.

He also questioned the past governments for not stressing constitutional duties enough and noted that if the path of duties had been emphasised after Independence, rights of the people would have been naturally secured.

But the PM's most direct attack was on dynastic politics.

"India is a democratic nation. Parties have their special significance and are a tool to taking the principles of the Constitution to the people. But can parties that themselves have lost democratic character protect Indian democracy? Today, India is moving towards a danger from Kashmir to Kanyakumari. Political parties for the family, by the family are a danger to democracy," the PM said in veiled attacks on the Congress and other family-run parties.

Drawing a distinction between families that send more than one person into politics on the basis of merit and parties that are controlled by a single family over generations, the PM said a national awakening is needed towards this threat.

"Family-controlled parties are a threat to our democratic character. They are the antithesis of what the Constitution teaches us. I don’t say more than one people from a party can’t enter politics on the grounds of merit but a party run by one family for generations, controlled by one family is a danger to democracy. We need national awareness to this end," said the PM, citing an example of Japan where a similar movement against dynastic politics succeeded.

The PM then went on to question people who fete those convicted of corrpution.

"Does the Constitution license corrpution? It is a matter of concern that after courts have convicted someone of corruption, there is a competition to fete and honour such people publicly for political purposes. What impression does such a trend give to youngsters? Won't they feel it is normal to be corrupt because society will accept you after some years? Chances for improvement should be given to such people but the competition to honour them in public is worrisome," the PM said.

He also lashed out at the past governments for “squandering” Mahatma Gandhi's legacy of stress on national duties saying had duties been emphasised right since Independence the rights of people would have been protected in normal course.

"Mahatma Gandhi in his lifetime stressed duties by way of cleanliness, women's empowerment. After Independence the seeds he had sown should have transformed into a thriving tree but governance structures that took root stressed only rights. It would have been better if after Independence, duties would have been emphasised. That way rights would have been protected on their own," the PM said, noting that fulfilment of duties led to the creation of a cohesive society and every time someone does their duty, someone else's right is protected.

The prime minister asked for moving towards the path where citizens seek to realise their rights through the performance of their duties.

The PM also took the occasion to take a jibe at the opposition with 13 parties, including the Congress, boycotting the Constitution Day event.

"I wonder if we could have written even a single page had we been tasked with the drafting of the Constitution in today's times when politics overwhelms national interest more often than not. The founders of the Indian Constitution, on the other hand, had national interest foremost in their minds and kept personal differences apart to give us the Constitution," Modi said to a thunderous applause.

He added that the Constitution Day event in Parliament was not a BJP or a government function.

"This is an event to hail the memory of Dr BR Ambedkar and other founders of the Constitution and has been organised by the presiding officers of the two Houses. Their chairs have a dignity which everyone must honour," the PM said, recalling that the opposition had similarly boycotted in Parliament his speech to mark the 150th anniversary of Dr Ambedkar.

The PM also asked past governments why they never thought of celebrating Constitution Day as a marker of evaluation of whether governance was headed in the right direction.

"These very people asked why the NDA government decided to celebrate Constitution Day. What was the need? It is surprising that while we hail an event associated with Dr Ambedkar's memory, such thoughts should even cross someone's mind. The country will not accept this," the PM said.

President Ram Nath Kovind also addressed the event calling for MPs to perform their duties as expected of them under the Constitution.

The President later led a joint reading of the Preamble.

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