New Delhi, Nov 14: President Pranab Mukherjee on Friday termed late prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru as the "Jewel of India" and said what the country is today is because of the vision of the first prime minister.
Mukherjee, who was delivering the 46th Jawaharlal Nehru Memorial Lecture on the eve of the 125th birth anniversary of India's first prime minister, said the man's services to India could not be measured and termed him "one of the greatest figures of our times".
Mukherjee, who was once a Congress leader himself, said Nehru gets the credit for leading India to emerge as a vibrant democracy and third-largest economy, thanks to his political and economic vision. Mukherjee also praised Nehru for championing the cause of a strong Opposition in India's parliamentary democracy.
During Nehru's time, India's democracy did not have a formal opposition, thanks to the Congress's one-sided dominance but yet the prime minister gave big respect to the Opposition leaders of his time. President Mukherjee did not forget to mention about it in his address. He said leaders like Atal Bihari Vajpayee and Ram Manohar Lohia, who were junior to Nehru, were also given due respect by the latter.
Mukherjee said Nehru's most precious legacy has been his deep faith in democratic spirit and practice that has remained relevant event to this day. The way in which 66.4 per cent of the country's 834 million people cast their votes in this year's general election validates Nehru's efforts, the president said.
The Congress led by Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi, the successors of Nehru, was decimated by Narendra Modi-led BJP in the election.
President Mukherjee also praised Nehru's secular practices. He said India established itself as a secular state with equal rights for all religions because of Nehru.