Former President of India Ram Nath Kovind honoured eight parliamentarians with the Lokmat Parliamentary Awards for their exemplary contribution to parliamentary democracy at a grand ceremony held at NDMC Convention Centre, Parliament Street, in New Delhi on Tuesday. This was the fourth edition of Lokmat Parliamentary Awards.
Congress president and the leader of Opposition in Rajya Sabha Mallikarjun Kharge and Biju Janata Dal MP Bhartruhari Mahtab were honoured with the Lifetime Achievement awards while Trinamool Congress’ Derek O’Brien and AIMIM’s Asaduddin Owaisi were honoured with the Best Parliamentarian awards.
NCP’s Vandana Chavan and BJP’s Locket Chatterjee were conferred with Best Woman Parliamentarian awards while Rashtriya Janata Dal MP Prof Manoj Kumar Jha received the Best Debutant Parliamentarian award.
Rajya Sabha Deputy Chairman Harivansh Narayan Singh, Delhi Lieutenant Governor Vinai Kumar Saxena, Nationalist Congress Party president and member of Parliament Sharad Pawar, former Union Minister of HRD, Science & Technology and senior BJP leader Dr Murli Manohar Joshi and Union minister of state for finance Dr Bhagwat Karad were guests of honour on the occasion.
Chairman of editorial board of Lokmat Media Group and former member of Rajya Sabha Vijay Darda, editor-in-chief of Lokmat Media Group Rajendra Darda, managing director and editorial director Devendra Darda, joint managing director and editorial director Rishi Darda, executive director and editorial director Karan Darda and news director of TV9 and jury member Hemant Sharma were prominently present on the dais.
Addressing the gathering, former President Kovind, who was the chief guest of the event, said, “India is the only country to grant universal franchise to its citizens from the beginning. Other countries had put some conditions for obtaining the right to vote. Women in India got this right from day one unlike many developed nations where they had to struggle.”
Kovind further said that when the Father of Indian Constitution, Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar, proposed universal franchise it was accepted unanimously. The former President said, “Democracy had an old tradition in the country. You find mention of sabhas and samitis in ancient literature. There is mention of janapadas like Licchavis in Buddhist literature. Parliamentarians of India must keep this ancient tradition in mind while discharging their responsibilities.”
Kovind lavished praise on Lokmat Media Group for instituting the parliamentary awards. He appealed to other media houses to follow suit and honour the outstanding members of Parliament and state Assemblies.
In his address, president of NCP Sharad Pawar, showered praise on Lokmat Media Group and how it serves the people of Maharashtra. He said founder of Lokmat Jawaharlal Darda was not only a veteran freedom fighter but a pioneering journalist. Lokmat became a people’s paper under his leadership and able guidance.
The contribution of Parliament in the development of the country is unmatchable. Many people had served the country through Parliament. The zilla parishads, municipal councils and municipal corporations and Legislative Assemblies look up to the Parliament for inspiration on how to function. “There is a need to honour those who perform well in Parliament. The work of the jury is very difficult as there were several contenders for these awards,” he said.
Dr Murli Manohar Joshi, former Union HRD minister and former BJP president, said these awards were not related to any party but the awardees were selected on the basis of their performance in their Parliament. “We select the awardees with great care and without any bias. I hope other MPs take inspiration from these awardees. Abraham Lincoln had said “the government is of the people, for the people and by the people’’. This will remain forever. Same is true for the Parliament. I would add that if the Parliament is responsible and its members are responsible, then it will continue for ever,” he said.
Dr Bhagwat Karad, Union Minister of State for Finance, said Parliament is a body that guides all other elected bodies. It is for the people, by the people and of the people. Vijay Darda himself was a Rajya Sabha member for 18 years and an excellent parliamentarian, he recalled.
Vinay Kumar Saxena, Lieutenant Governor of Delhi, said Parliament with its two houses is the supreme representative of the people. It has various roles and responsibilities. Its proceedings are subject to scrutiny by the people, especially the media. “Many times MPs are accused of disrupting the proceedings, which is very demoralising. Hence, Lokmat Group by recognising the outstanding parliamentarians has done a great job,” he stated.
Harivansh Narayan Singh, Deputy Chairman of Rajya Sabha, praised the Lokmat Parliamentary Awards. He said, “This is an excellent exercise to honour the performance of parliamentarians. It encourages MPs to do even better. Vijay Darda himself was an excellent parliamentarian for 18 years. Every type of MPs are recognised by Lokmat Media Group including youngsters and women. I am sure they will inspire others in the future. Many of the awardees are members of Rajya Sabha and I have learnt many things from them. They will emerge as role models for others. We must start a lecture series on parliamentarians who performed excellently in the past. Madhu Limaye was one such person. Somnath Chatterjee was another,” he said.
Mallikarjun Kharge, national president of Congress and leader of opposition in Rajya Sabha, said that Jawaharlal Darda was a great freedom fighter and an excellent journalist. He built several institutions and was a minister in the Maharashtra government for years. The UPA government issued a postal stamp in his honour. Lokmat has become a huge banyan tree that was planted by him.
“Print media is still important in spite of the advent of electronic and digital media. Akbar Allahabadi had famously said, ‘a newspaper is more powerful than a canon’. However, the media’s image has been somewhat tarnished due to paid news and false news, TRP scam, etc. Electronic media is running the agenda of a particular party,” he added.
Earlier, Chairman of Editorial Board of Lokmat Media and former Rajya Sabha member Vijay Darda, while delivering the welcome address, said, “members of Parliament work at various levels. They work as a bridge between government and people. While every MP tries to do his/her best but when somebody performs excellently he/she needs encouragement. We instituted these awards in 2017. Media always criticizes the performance of MPs but we must also praise them when they do a splendid job. Lokmat confers awards on the best sarpanchs, best legislators and the best parliamentarians to recognise the good work done at all levels of democracy. This year is special for the Group as is the centenary year of senior freedom fighter Jawaharlal Darda and golden jubilee year of Lokmat’s Nagpur edition.”
The initiative of Lokmat Parliamentary Awards has been started to recognise the works of MPs who have done outstanding work in Parliament. The award winners are selected by a jury board consisting of individuals who have distinguished themselves in parliamentary affairs.
The number of readers of Lokmat is 2.25 crores. Apart from being the largest Marathi daily in Maharashtra, Goa and Delhi, it is also the 4th largest daily nationally. 18 editions of Lokmat are published. Apart from this, Lokmat has also achieved success on TV, digital and social media, Darda said.