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India marks Republic Day, president warns on graft Japanese PM Abe chief guest

NEW DELHI, Jan 26, (AFP): India marked its Republic Day on Sunday with a parade of military hardware in the capital, as the president warned the country’s politicians against underestimating public anger over corruption. Thousands of spectators turned out for the annual military and cultural parade along New Delhi’s ceremonial Rajpath boulevard, along with political leaders and chief guest Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. Security was tight in the capital with police and troops sealing off large parts of the city for the 65th Republic Day, which is a national holiday to mark the day the Indian constitution came into force.

On the eve of Republic Day, traditionally celebrated with shows of patriotic fervour, President Pranab Mukherjee warned politicians against corruption and false electoral promises ahead of general elections due by May. “Corruption is a cancer that erodes democracy, and weakens the foundations of our state,” Mukherjee said in an annual address aired live on national television. “If Indians are enraged, it is because they are witnessing corruption and waste of national resources. If governments do not remove these flaws, voters will remove governments,” he said on Saturday night.

Before his nomination as president in 2012, Mukherjee was a senior minister in the ruling Congress-led coalition which has been rocked by a series of corruption scandals that was eroded voter support. Mukherjee also took what is seen as a swipe at India’s new political star, Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal, who declared himself an anarchist this month as he protested in the capital to press for police reform.

Kejriwal, a former anti-corruption campaigner who took office less than a month ago, has faced savage criticism for the two-day sit-in protest which saw police baton charge his supporters. “Equally dangerous is the rise of hypocrisy in public life. Those who seek the trust of voters must promise only what is possible. Government isn’t a charity shop,” Mukherjee said. “Populist anarchy can’t be a substitute for governance.

False promises lead to disillusionment, which gives birth to rage, and that rage has one legitimate target: those in power. “Those in politics should understand that every election comes with a warning sign: perform or perish.” Kejriwal is looking to take advantage of a wave of popularity among the poor and middle class at the upcoming elections.

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