New Delhi, Feb 5: "Real freedom is experienced when citizens can speak freely without fear," says a new book asserting that democratic elections provide citizens the right platform to speak about their civil and political rights.
Amid debate on the credibility of Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs), former President Pranab Mukherjee has said that the success of electoral systems in India essentially would depend on the strength of the institutions and pro-active participation of the common people.
Mr Mukherjee, who has been chosen for this year's highest civilian award Bharat Ratna award along with two other luminaries, also has said that the "abuse of money and muscle power to influence voters" will remain a cause of concern in the country.
"The spirit of democracy will be subverted if these malpractices are not checked. It is commendable that the Election Commission has taken up initiatives to promote ethical and informed voting," Mr Mukherjee wrote in the Foreword to the new book 'The Great March of Democracy - Seven Decades of India's Elections'.
The book is edited by former Chief Election Commissioner S Y Qureshi and published by Penguin Random House.
In his Foreword to the compendium, the former President - a former Congress veteran and who has been members of both the Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha - lauded the role of the Indian Constitution - describing it as a 'Magna Carta' for socio-economic transformation.
"From our constitution, flows our nationalism; the construct of Indian nationalism is constitutional patriotism, which consists of an appreciation of our inherited and shared diversity," he writes laying emphasis in as many words that - "the soul of India resides in pluralism and tolerance".
Mr Mukherjee, often called a living encyclopedia for parliamentary matters and rules of governance, - states rather assertively that - "Seven decades later (since Independence), we have had our ups and downs, but we can proudly say that India is the world's biggest functioning democracy".
"We were successful in our efforts to build a free country," he says.
The book celebrates seven decades of India's vibrant democracy and the Election Commission's excellence and rigour, with a remarkable collection of essays written by those who have studied India's unique experiment in electoral democracy.
The essays deal with subjects from the evolution of the Election Commission and also contemporary issues, such as the corrupting influence of money and the creeping criminalisation in politics.
The book has contributions from the likes of Somnath Chatterjee, Shashi Tharoor, Christophe Jaffrelot, Mark Tully and Ratan Tata. (UNI)