India and democracy have become intertwined concepts: President Patil

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New Delhi, Jan 25 (ANI): Inaugurating the Diamond Jubilee celebrations of the Election Commission of India (ECI) at Vigyan Bhawan here on Monday, President Pratibha Patil said, India and democracy have become intertwined concepts and it is hard to imagine one without the other. Democracy, the very essence of our Constitution, has become our nation's identity.

President Patil said, "The Election Commission has been a part of the journey of our Republic since its very inception. It has been working with great responsibility from election to election and contributing to taking the nation forward step by step, from one destination to another, from strength to strength and bringing stability to our democratic system."

"Framed by men and women of remarkable intelligence, foresight and values, our Constitution bears a profound imprint of the high ideals of our freedom struggle. In choosing democracy and by elaborating in detail the Fundamental Rights, the framers of our Constitution deeply embedded in our national ethos, the importance of the dignity of every individual," said President Patil.

President Patil further said, "A natural extension of this basic approach was the inclusion of universal adult franchise in our Constitution, that gave from the very beginning, the right to vote to every citizen of India - man or woman, rich or poor, no matter to which caste or creed or religion he or she belonged - they were all brought together on one platform."

"The age-old inequalities were done away with and political equality was established throughout the length and breadth of the country. This was an enlightened vision, particularly if we recall that in many countries different groups, especially women, had to struggle to get their voting rights," she added.

President Patil said, "The Election Commission of India is one such very important constitutional body created under Article 324 of our Constitution. It has been entrusted with a range of responsibilities for the conduct of elections in the country."

"Members of the State Legislative Assemblies, Members of Parliament, the Vice-President and I myself, have come through an election process, which has been conducted by the Commission," she added.

President Patil said, "Elections are the foundation stone of any democracy. The conduct of free, fair and impartial elections depends much upon the performance of the three stakeholders. They are - an independent and impartial electoral machinery; political parties and candidates; and the electorate."

"The Indian election process has the Model Code of Conduct, that lays down the norms of behaviour and actions which, parties and contesting candidates shall adhere to, at the time of elections," she added.

President Patil said, " The Commission has always been willing to use technology for modernization and for the better conduct of elections. In this context, over the years, several measures have been taken such as - computerization of electoral rolls and Photo Identity Cards for voters."

"With the size of our electorate increasing from 176 million in the first General Elections in the country in 1951-52, to 716 million in the 15th General Elections held last year, the task of the Election Commission has increased manifold. Today, our electorate is almost equal to the combined population of the European Union and of the United States," she added.

President Patil said, "India has impressive democratic credentials, but yet has the challenge of becoming a "role model" for other countries. This requires that we should be aware of the impediments, the lacunae and malpractices in the electoral process. These would have to be removed with determination, to make our democracy cleaner, healthier and stronger."

"As we carry on with our work, we should not forget that we swear by the Constitution, and therefore, we must adhere to its values, spirit and principles. Democracy adorns our Constitution," she added.

President Patil said, "Through the Panchayati Raj Institutions and Local Urban Bodies, we have sought to deepen the reach of democracy. Their role and responsibility for executing programmes and schemes, particularly social and welfare schemes must increase."

Further praising the Commission, President Patil said, "I am glad that the Election Commission has chosen the theme, "Greater participation for a stronger democracy", for its Diamond Jubilee Year. I hope that discussions under the rubric of this theme would be fruitful."

President Patil later extending her felicitations to the Commission for their achievements in the last 60 years said, "I am confident that the electoral process and democracy in India will continue to be strong and vibrant." (ANI)

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