The 26th of January is celebrated in India as ‘Republic Day’ every year, as it was on this day that India adopted it’s constitution and became a ‘socialist, secular, democratic republic’ 65 years ago. It is customary for the President of India to address the nation on the eve of the republic day, and take the salute at a splendid march-past that showcases India’s unity in diversity and its military prowess on the following morning every year. This year, barely a week or so after Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal enacted a ‘Dharna’ at Rail Bhavan lawns that threatened to upset the republic day applecart, and defiantly called himself an ‘anarchist’ to boot, President Pranab Mukherjee, in his pre-republic day address to the nation, averred that “populist anarchy” was no substitute for “good governance.”

He also made a comment that “government is not a charity shop,” an apparent reference to the generous promises and freebies offered by political parties of various hues at the left, right and the centre. Subtextually, this jibe could be interpreted to apply as much to the UPA which has been on a dole-handing-out spree rolling out several subsidy schemes, as to parties like the DMK or AIADMK in Tamilnadu, or to the Aam Aadmi Party which has chosen to lavish subsidised water and power on Delhi residents. Denouncing what he described as a “rising trend of hypocrisy in public life,” he said elections did not give anyone “a license to flirt with illusions.” False promises would lead to disillusionment, which in turn gives birth to rage, and that rage has one legitimate target — those in power. “This rage will abate only when governments deliver what they were elected to deliver — social and economic progress, not at snail’s pace, but with the speed of a racehorse,” he said in a speech which named no political parties, but had strong political overtones nevertheless.

“The aspirational young Indian will not forgive a betrayal of her future. Those in office must eliminate the trust deficit between them and the people. Those in politics should understand that every election comes with a warning — perform, or perish,” the President contended. With a mere four months to go before the next general elections and exit-cum-opinion polls predicting a hopelessly hung parliament, the president made a strong pitch for a stable government, warning that 2014 could well prove to be ‘catastrophic’ if people gave a fractured verdict giving room to “whimsical opportunists,” and asserting that 2014 must become a year of healing, after the fractured and contentious politics of the past few years.

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