As President Pranab Mukherjee, the 13th president of India, vacates the Rashtrapati Bhavan tomorrow, making way for his successor President-elect Ram Nath Kovind, Parliamentarians from both the Houses – Rajya Sabha and Lok Sabha – gathered at the Central Hall to bid farewell to the outgoing Raisina Hill occupant.
Overwhelmed with the ceremony, President Mukherjee thanked everybody present in the Hall, most particularly the Parliament for ‘creating’ him and spoke about his warm association with Prime Minister Narendra Modi, while also lauding him for various “transformational changes.”
“If I claim I am the creation of this Parliament, perhaps it will not be treated as immodesty. The Parliament gave a direction to my political vision as I got to learn a lot from the serious discussions held in both Houses of the Parliament,” he said, adding, he attended the first session of the Parliament on July 22, 1969.
“For the last 37 years, I have been a part of five Rajya Sabhas, four times from Bengal and once from Gujarat. It’s a tinge of sadness and a rainbow of memories that I will be leaving this magnificent building today.”
“As the President, I have tried to protect, preserve, and defend the Constitution, not just in letter but in spirit as well.”
“I will carry with me fond memories of our (President Mukherjee and Prime Minister Modi) association and his (Prime Minister Modi’s) warm and courteous behaviour towards me,” he said.
President Mukherjee remembered the former prime ministers of India, including late Indira Gandhi.
“My career was mentored by Mrs. Indira Gandhi, who was a towering personality. She had the courage to call a spade a spade,” he said.
President Mukherjee expressed happiness over the fact that the Goods and Services Tax (GST) regime was launched during his tenure and disappointment over the constant downfall of the Parliament’s stature.
“The recent passage of the GST and its launch on July 1 is a shining example of cooperative federalism and speaks volumes of the maturity of India’s Parliament,” he said.
“It is unfortunate that the Parliamentary time devoted to legislations has been declining. The Parliament stands for debate and discussion. However, dissent and disruption have hurt the Opposition more,” he added.
President Mukherjee also said the government should avoid the ordinance route and it should be reserved only for compelling circumstances.
Concluding his address as he shouted “Jai Hind”, President Mukherjee thanked the gathering again for the farewell given to him, adding, “I leave with a sense of fulfilment and happiness of having served the country.”
Earlier, Lok Sabha Speaker presented a book signed by the members of Parliament. The book includes signatures of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Congress president Sonia Gandhi, Deputy Speaker of Lok Sabha Thambidurai, and deputy chair of Rajya Sabha P.J. Kurien.
“President Mukherjee brought a presidential focus and centrality to human development,” Mahajan said in her address.
Rajya Sabha Chairman and Vice-President Hamid Ansari, while addressing the Central Hall, spoke of the “long and distinguished” career of President Mukherjee, adding he has been an erudite scholar, along with being an excellent statesman.
Earlier on Saturday, President Mukherjee attended a farewell dinner hosted by Prime Minister Modi.
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The Prime Minister hosted the ceremony at the Hyderabad House in New Delhi, where president-elect Ram Nath Kovind, Vice-President Hamid Ansari, Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar, senior ministers and Opposition leaders were also present.
The president, who is also Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces, was also given a farewell by the chiefs of the armed forces. The function was held at the Manekshaw Centre.
President Mukherjee will address a farewell speech to the nation at 7.30 p.m. on Monday (July 24).
President-elect Ram Nath Kovind will take oath as the 14th President of India on Tuesday