Union minister V Muraleedharan, opposition face-off at seminar on democracy

By PTI

NEW DELHI: Union minister V Muraleedharan on Friday made a slew of suggestions to opposition parties, including on internal democracy and promoting talent, at a seminar and left soon citing “pressing engagements”, sparking protests from other participants.

The Minister of State for External Affairs and Parliamentary Affairs was speaking at a seminar ‘Challenges Before Democracy’ to celebrate the 86th birth anniversary of late M P Veerendra Kumar, a socialist leader and Chairman of the Mathrubhumi Media Group.

The other speakers at the seminar were senior lawyer Prashant Bhushan, Congress spokesman Pawan Khera, RJD leader Manoj Kumar Jha, CPI(M) leader John Brittas, BJP leader Swapan Dasgupta and activist Yogendra Yadav.

“In the present context, the opposition feels that any achievement of India will go into the account of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and hence it chooses not to applaud it. Is it good for democracy,” Muraleedharan asked.

In his 30-minute speech, mostly in Malayalam, Muraleedharan said in a democracy everyone has the right to criticise, but in his home state Kerala, a person could be put in jail for criticising the chief minister.

In an apparent jibe at the Congress, he said people protest on the roads across the country saying ‘democracy is in peril’ when central government agencies summon a person for questioning following the due process of the law.

As Muraleedharan began to leave, Khera and Yadav asked him to at least hear the opposition response to the points he had raised in his speech.

“You call this democracy when the government is not ready to listen to what we have to say? This is not acceptable,” Khera said.

In his keynote speech, Bhushan said the role of money power in democracy had increased manifold with the introduction of electoral bonds, removal of limit on contributions to political parties by big corporations and allowing subsidiaries of foreign companies to make donations to political parties.

He also referred to lack of access to justice, delay in court cases and not having competent judges also posed challenges before democracy.

“If we have to reclaim democracy there will have to be a very robust citizen’s movement across the country. That movement will have to create its own media organisation that can be used by citizens to spread the right information,” Bhushan said.

“Our republic has been brought to the brink and if we do not rise to the challenge the situation will become irretrievable,” he said.

Khera said Congress alone will not be able to fight this battle to reclaim democracy without the participation of the civil society or the media.

Jha, the Rajya Sabha member from RJD, said the real challenge was not to realise that there were challenges to democracy in the country.

Yadav, who heads Swaraj Abhiyan, said when solemn memorial lectures are used to score petty political points one realises something was really wrong with democracy.

NEW DELHI: Union minister V Muraleedharan on Friday made a slew of suggestions to opposition parties, including on internal democracy and promoting talent, at a seminar and left soon citing “pressing engagements”, sparking protests from other participants.

The Minister of State for External Affairs and Parliamentary Affairs was speaking at a seminar ‘Challenges Before Democracy’ to celebrate the 86th birth anniversary of late M P Veerendra Kumar, a socialist leader and Chairman of the Mathrubhumi Media Group.

The other speakers at the seminar were senior lawyer Prashant Bhushan, Congress spokesman Pawan Khera, RJD leader Manoj Kumar Jha, CPI(M) leader John Brittas, BJP leader Swapan Dasgupta and activist Yogendra Yadav.

“In the present context, the opposition feels that any achievement of India will go into the account of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and hence it chooses not to applaud it. Is it good for democracy,” Muraleedharan asked.

In his 30-minute speech, mostly in Malayalam, Muraleedharan said in a democracy everyone has the right to criticise, but in his home state Kerala, a person could be put in jail for criticising the chief minister.

In an apparent jibe at the Congress, he said people protest on the roads across the country saying ‘democracy is in peril’ when central government agencies summon a person for questioning following the due process of the law.

As Muraleedharan began to leave, Khera and Yadav asked him to at least hear the opposition response to the points he had raised in his speech.

“You call this democracy when the government is not ready to listen to what we have to say? This is not acceptable,” Khera said.

In his keynote speech, Bhushan said the role of money power in democracy had increased manifold with the introduction of electoral bonds, removal of limit on contributions to political parties by big corporations and allowing subsidiaries of foreign companies to make donations to political parties.

He also referred to lack of access to justice, delay in court cases and not having competent judges also posed challenges before democracy.

“If we have to reclaim democracy there will have to be a very robust citizen’s movement across the country. That movement will have to create its own media organisation that can be used by citizens to spread the right information,” Bhushan said.

“Our republic has been brought to the brink and if we do not rise to the challenge the situation will become irretrievable,” he said.

Khera said Congress alone will not be able to fight this battle to reclaim democracy without the participation of the civil society or the media.

Jha, the Rajya Sabha member from RJD, said the real challenge was not to realise that there were challenges to democracy in the country.

Yadav, who heads Swaraj Abhiyan, said when solemn memorial lectures are used to score petty political points one realises something was really wrong with democracy.