President Mukherjee Honors Freedom Fighters; BJP Boycotts Event

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Patna: Bihar Governor Ram Nath Kovind and Chief Minister Nitish Kumar on Monday welcomed President of India Pranab Mukherjee who arrived in the state capital to participate in a function to honor thousands of freedom fighters coming from 19 states.

President Mukherjee was received by the Governor and the Chief Minister at the Patna Airport in the presence of several ruling party leaders and top government officials.

This makes it the President's fourth trip to Bihar since last August.

Though the total number of people to be recognized today was said to be close to three thousand, only a few hundred were personally honored by the President.

The program held at the S K Memorial Hall north of the Gandhi Maidan was inaugurated by the President in the presence of Congress General Secretary Rahul Gandhi, Nitish Kumar, Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) chief Lalu Prasad Yadav and his son and Deputy Chief Minister Tejaswi Yadav, and other ruling party leaders.

Incidentally, none of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leaders was present on the occasion in what was described as a boycott because of the presence of a convicted politician and felon like Lalu Prasad Yadav, who is out of prison on bail in the multi-crore rupees fodder scam, sharing the dais with the person holding the highest office in the nation.

Speaking on the occasion, the President stuck to the usual theme of secularism and the need for tolerance in the nation while emphasizing the importance of unity that, he said, led to the ouster of the British Raj.

"India is a country of several religions and over 200 languages – all living under one constitution. We should celebrate our diversity and feel proud about our Indian identity," he said.

President Mukherjee personally honored 15 freedom fighters while the others were awarded by Chief Minister and other top government officials.

Kumar, in his speech, once again reiterated his resolve to follow on the footsteps of Mahatma Gandhi and justified his decision to impose prohibition in Bihar by saying this is what the Father of the Nation had wanted.

Aware of the presence of Rahul Gandhi on the stage, Kumar admonished political pundits not to make too much out of the imagery saying people should refrain from treating this function as a political event.

Despite his warning, however, Lalu Prasad Yadav did not miss the opportunity to politicize the event when he, without mentioning the name of the BJP, said that while a majority of the people were the followers of Gandhi and were willing to follow his ideals, others celebrated the killing of the Mahatma by Nathuram Godse.

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