A day before outgoing President Pranab Mukherjee relinquishes his office, Parliament bid farewell on Sunday evening.
The grand event was held at Parliament’s Central Hall.
Eighty one-year-old Mukherjee was received by Vice President Hamid Ansari, Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Lok Sabha Speaker Sumitra Mahajan and Parliamentary Affairs Minister Ananth Kumar at Parliament for the farewell ceremony. MPs were also present for the send-off.
In her speech, Speaker Sumitra Mahajan said, “This is a solemn occasion for each one of us to express our profound respect to President Mukherjee.”
Vice-President Ansari lauded Mukherjee for his “unshakable belief in the idea of India” and said he often appealed to the people to re-dedicate themselves to the democratic values of the country.
Ansari also complimented Mukherjee for the manner in which he essayed the role of the president.
“He brought great distinction and dignity to the top office. His views on national and international issues have enhanced the stature of the office,” VP Ansari said.
The outgoing president expressed gratitude to the parliamentarians for the farewell.
In his farewell speech, President Mukherjee also stressed upon pluralism and diversity “as the greatest strength” of the country.
“After Independence, we undertook to promote fraternity, dignity and unity of the nation. These ideals became the lodestar for the country,” Mukherjee said.
He urged the MPs to avoid frequent disruptions in Parliament and said that disruptions hurt the Opposition more.
“During my years in Parliament, I learnt that it stands for debate, discussion and dissent. I also learnt that disruptions hurt the opposition more,” the outgoing President said.
Mukherjee also said the government should avoid the ordinance route in and that it should be reserved only for compelling circumstances.
“It should not be taken for matters being considered for discussion (in Parliament),” he added.
Mukherjee said, “As the President, I have tried to protect, preserve and defend the Constitution, not just in letter, but in spirit as well.”
He concluded by saying, “I leave this magnificent building with a rainbow of memories and a sense of fulfilment and happiness of having served the people of this country as their humble servant.”
The President also praised Prime Minister Modi in his speech.
“I will carry with me fond memories of my association with PM Narendra Modi and remember his warm, courteous behaviour towards me,” said Mukherjee.
On Saturday evening PM Modi hosted a farewell dinner for the outgoing President.
PM Modi presented a memento to the outgoing president, the PMO said.
President Mukherjee also signed the visitors’ book.
Pranab Mukherjee, the 13th President of the country will be relinquishing office on July 24 as his five year term soon comes to an end and President-elect Ram Nath Kovind will sworn in as the 14th President of India on July 25.
Kovind convincingly defeated Opposition’s Meira Kumar, a former Lok Sabha speaker, winning more than 65 percent of the votes in the electoral college, in the July 17 polls.
(With inputs from PTI)