The book before the reading public is a collection of two sets of speeches made by me: the first covers a selection from those made in the last year of my second term as Vice President of the Republic and the second in the subsequent six months or so.

The pre-launch publicity given to the book by the media tends to suggest that it might contain some version of a kiss-and-tell tale. Nothing could be further from truth as the readers will discover.

My approach is spelt out in the Preface. I am concerned as a citizen about the contemporary debate in our country relating to three themes: (a) what are the principles or ideological foundations of the Republic of India; (b) what is the condition of the institutional structure put in place by the Constitution; and (c) the implications of these for Indian democracy.

‘What is it to be an Indian’ is the question I have raised in the Preface. This takes us:

Firstly, to the meaning of nationalism in the context of India’s plural society, of our composite culture, and the resultant need to be inclusive and move beyond mere tolerance to acceptance of diversity as a civic virtue.

Secondly, Secularism in Indian context means symmetric political treatment of different religious communities, defence of minority rights, and prevention of bigotry.

Thirdly, political democracy must be based on social democracy.

Fourthly, dissent is of critical importance in an open society.

Fifthly, there is an evident decline in adherence to Rule of Law norms and in the efficacy of institutions – legislature, executive and judiciary. This is resulting in public disenchantment and is a matter of concern.

Sixthly, our electoral democracy is a success story but it has not transformed itself into a substantive, inclusive and participatory democracy. There is apprehension that it could metamorphose itself into an illiberal, ethnic democracy, based on principles of a socio-political philosophy called Hindutva whose core concepts circumscribe the ambit of citizenship.

Lastly, correctives are therefore essential and it is the duty of citizens and of civil society to raise questions pertaining to them.