Intolerance to debate may lead to fascism : Pranab

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Kolkata, Feb 7 (UNI) Expressing grave concern over the growing intolerance and aversion to debates among present day politicians, External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee today warned that the trend could beget fascism.

'' If debates do not take place, how democracy will be strengthened. There could be differences of opinions, but intolerance begets fascism, '' he said while being felicitated on being awarded 'Padma Vibhusan'.

The felicitation programme was organised by the West Bengal Pradesh Congress Committee, of which he was the president, in front of the PCC office.

A gold plated trophy, a silver plaque and a host of other gifts were handed over to him by PCC functionaries.

Observing that it would be a 'great danger' for parliamentary democracy if politicians failed to inculcate patience to opposite opinions, Mr Mukherjee said this was needed for the posterity.

'' Difference of opinions is the part and parcel of parliamentary democracy for which crores of rupees have been spent. But tolerance is what we lack today. We have to strengthen the roots of our freedom, which we have achieved by giving away many lives, '' he said.

Mr Mukherjee appreciated the remark of Lok Sabha Speaker Somnath Chatterjee, who described the country a few days ago as the world's largest democracy.

Mr Mukherjee said all those, belonging to West Bengal, who were earlier awarded 'Padma Vibhusan' deserved the honour and there was nothing for controversy over the choice of their names.

'' People like Satyen Bose, Nandalal Bose, Hiren Mukherjee, Nelie Sengupta and Basanti Devi have been awarded this. I do not think there is any scope for debate over the issue, '' he said.

His comment came in an apparent reference to the criticism of Trinamool Congress chief Mamata Banerjee, who had alleged that 'Padma Bibhushan' had been awarded to the External Affairs Minister out of political consideration.

PCC working president Pradip Bhattacharya and Congress Legislature Party leader Manas Bhunia were among others present at the programme.

However, a number of prominent leaders of the faction-ridden PCC were conspicuous by their absence.


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