Wednesday, May 2, 2012
The Notorious Race To Rashtrapati Bhavan
I am happy that July is fast approaching. No not because I have my birthday in that month but because we finally be relieved of a huge burden that was thrust upon us a good five years back by Congress. Finally the day would come when we will bid our adieu to perhaps the worst president that India has seen since Fakhruddin Ali Ahmed.
While political parties have already started their bit of calculation and consultation to zero in on the candidate of their choice, I have a mixed feeling on the whole issue. While at one hand I am happy that things can only get better looking at the stature of the current incumbent, at the same time the too much politicization of a completely apolitical post scares me a bit. Whatever I have seen of Indian politics, I am sure I can’t imagine any previous Presidential election which has the amount of fanfare that we are building up to this one; not even the election of Pratibha Patil. I can’t remember the last time I saw political parties blowing hot air over the presidential election as they are doing for this one. It always invariably was a mutual consensus among various political parties to agree upon a candidate with a clean and unquestionable image to fit to the decorated post. Never was it a case for political parties to score brownie points by pushing their candidate to show that one-upmanship. So what went wrong this time? Why there are as many numbers of prospective candidates as the number of political parties? Why every party is hell-bent on creating a chaos on the day of electing our next president?
The lid was first forced open by Sharad Pawar when he advocated for a non-political person for the post. Let me say this, for the first time I am willing to agree on what Mr. Pawar has to say. The post of the President should always be a post for the intellectuals, visionaries, achievers and most important for a person having zero political alliance or aspiration. No two ways should be drawn on this. Ironically it is the grand old party Congress which has maligned this post time and again by pushing candidates having some obedience for the Gandhi family. Be it Giani Zail Singh or the current incumbent Mrs. Pratibha Patil.
As expected, there was chorus that followed Mr. Pawar’s statement with candidate names been thrown left-right-and-center. First name that popped up was that of the ex-president Dr. Kalam. It was Pawar who first suggested this great man’s name which was subsequently been supported by Mulayam Sing Yadav. There were few other minor regional parties who seemed to tow the same lines and vouch for Dr. Kalam. While a consensus looked like building around the missile man, Congress quite expectedly throw their hat in the ring with a different view. Even though they haven’t yet named their candidate, it is anything but obvious that Hamid Ansari could be the front runner in their list. Opposition of Kalam’s candidature by Congress was as expected as Pakistan opposing anything that has got something to do with Indian since Dr. Kalam was always opposed to the idea of Sonia Gandhi becoming the Prime-Minister of India and in all likelihood the prince becoming the same in future. Could Congress afford such a President who is a complete no-nonsense and cares for Gandhi family as much as Congress cares for the Aam-Aadmi? That was why Kalam didn’t get the support of Congress the last time around when Pratibha Patil was given a preference for reasons known to even my pet dog.
But there is a catch with Congress behavior this time. After numerous arrogant and bullhead decisions making and annoying a lot of allies in the process, they seem to have learnt the art of coalition management finally. While messengers of Gandhi family are flying all over India to meet the allies to come to a consensus, BJP in all probability have shot on their foot. Out of nowhere a seasoned politician like Sushma Swaraj announced Dr. Kalam as the candidate of NDA. No wonder such unanimous decision without consulting their prime ally JD(U) have irate few in the camp. While Sharad Yadav has refuted the claim of Mrs. Swaraj on the grounds that they were never consulted before going public with the name, Nitish Kumar has asked for an explanation or two from BJP on the same. Up there in North, a wily fox called Mulayam Yadav, who was in for of Kalam as president few days back seem to be taking a U-Turn when his party spokesperson popped up the name of S.Y. Quraishi on a TV debate. Rumors are there that even Mulayam Yadav himself is in the race for the post alongside another veteran from Congress named Pranab Mukherjee. While political parties keep on fighting on the person to be, let’s sit down and analyze the entire probable ourselves. Let’s keep Dr. Kalam out of this analysis since for me he is the best person for the post on any bloody given day.
A name that first strikes me is that of Gopal Gandhi. The great grandson of the father of the nation, he was a clean bureaucrat with a pretty much clean service record. His behavior and conduct as the Governor of West Bengal is again unquestionable and free of any taints. His recent meeting with Naveen Pattnaik shows, he is trying to build a rapport among political parties for his candidature. Being a good bureaucrat and Governor himself, he knows our politics and system inside-out. If you ask me, he could be a fine President since he understands the nerves required to be in such formal but yet very important positions. But will Mamta Banarjee approve of his candidature? Mamta was always against Gopal Gandhi and accused him of getting too cozy with the Left, still being the Governor of the state. Knowing Mamta and all her baseless allegations for decades we can safely assume it could be yet one of those Mamta paranoia but at a time when her own ministers are even advising people to not get their children married in CPI(M) supporter’s house, how she would react on the mention of Gopal Gandhi’s name is anybody’s guess. Honestly I even rate Dr. S.Y. Quraishi in the same length that of Gopal Gandhi and see a lot of similarity between these two gentlemen. He won’t be that bad a President either.
Another name that is doing the rounds is of Sam Pitroda. No doubt on the credentials of this candidature but can he be a neutral person? Can we call him a completely apolitical figure? He belongs to my state and I would love someone from my state as the first citizen but that said his yesteryears close association with Gandhi family, Rajiv Gandhi in particular doesn’t give me much confidence. Since the days of telephone revolution he is always with Congress and at present is part of the advisory board to the Prime-Minister. Can anyone assure, in the event of a political crisis he won’t favor the Congress over the ethics and guidelines laid out by our constitution? Probably he won’t but then why have doubts and take chances with the first citizen of this nation?
Rumors are that even Pranab Mukharjee is in the race. He is a veteran and a great politician and there where I have a problem. Can’t we for once elect someone who doesn’t have any political version whatsoever? While I respect Pranab Da as a politician, I can’t approve of him being the President of the nation by looking at his political associations. I am sure he will remain as neutral as anyone can but I doubt if in standout eventualities he can still remain the same and won’t blink in favor of Congress. Can it be assured that his close to half a century association with Congress can be wiped of his memory so easily? Can it be?
There is this guy who nobody is talking about is the ex-Chief Justice of India M.N. Venkatachaliah. Looking at the present political turmoil, it is anything but expected that the next general election could easily be a make-or-break case for many on individual level and so as for the nation to some extent. To tackle an uncomfortable political situation post 2014 general election we might need a person as our President who understands the constitution to the fullest. Mr. Venkatachaliah fits the bill right there. He also possesses a clean record as the Chief Justice Of India. For me Mr. Venkatachaliah is a fine option which political parties must consider but again looking at his bashing of the then Narashimha Rao government, how comfortable Congress will be with his name is a thing to watch out for.
By the way, did someone actually suggest Mulayam Yadav’s name for President? Heavens!! In that case I would rather prefer Pratibha Patil to continue till eternity.