By Nakul Arora:
With the tenure of the current president, Mrs. Pratibha Patil due to end in July, the race for the presidential post and the associated politics with it has started again. Unlike the USA, where the president is elected through vote, India’s constitution places the responsibility of electing its first citizen on its elected representatives to the Parliament and state assemblies. Thus, the state has placed a huge responsibility on its elected representatives for even though the Indian President occupies a mere ceremonial post, yet he/she is regarded as the First Citizen of the country and thus, it’s very essential to keep the post’s moral integrity upright. This however, hasn’t really been the case for we have seen only a very few deserving candidates get to this post. Mostly, the post has seen heavy involvement of politics in the election with parties lobbying to get their stooge candidates into the post.
Surprisingly, even though the two major parties BJP and Congress are yet to meet up on this issue and announce their candidates, this hasn’t prevented the stately buildings of Lutyen, Delhi to be filled up with heated discussion on the election, for this is being considered very crucial by observers as a run-up for the 2014 elections. Both the NDA and UPA will be aiming to check their political acumen and readiness for the upcoming election with this election. Also, this time around the presidential election gains even further significance as the results of the 2014 elections are expected to result in a fractured government with no party gaining any clear majority and as a result of which, a coalition government will have to be formed. Here the President will play a major role, because of his discretionary powers to decide which party would form a government in case of an absence of any majority. This will be a major factor in the upcoming elections, for after the recent drubbing experience by congress in the state elections, it’s apparently clear where the elections are heading. Also, with the presence of around 45 parties (both regional and national) who will be being an active part of the elections, the possibility of there being a coalition government at the centre increases and so does the President’s role in allowing to form it. Thus, any party would want its stooge on the post so as to face no trouble in the future. However, the possibility of any one party finding it easy to elect its candidate seems remote this time, with even the ruling coalition of congress having to struggle to get the required majority. Congress, in-fact is said to have started the process of wooing the non-UPA members, primarily being the chief ministers of Bihar, UP and Tamil Nadu. It’s also in talks with Trinamool Congress to resolve the recent conflict’s in ideas that the two parties are facing. It will be interesting what results will this wooing fetch the ruling party.
As of now, without any official declarations, as many as 14 different names are doing the rounds for the post. There are a lot of talks doing round of the possibility of a surprise candidate gaining entry into Raisina Hill, due to the decreasing clout of the Congress government. The different names doing the rounds as of now are: Vice-President Hamid Ansari, Prime minister Manmohan Singh, Finance minister Pranab Mukherjee, Defence Minister AK Anthony, Lok Sabha speaker Meira Kumar, former West Bengal governor Gopal Gandhi, senior Congress leader Karan Singh, former president APJ Kalam, former speaker Somnath Chaterjee, chief election commissioner SY Quaraishi, Punjab CM Prakash Badal, SP Chief Mulayam Singh Yadav, senior Congress leader Mohsina Kidwai and JD(U) president Sharad Yadav. Amongst these, if public opinion is to be taken into consideration, former president APJ Kalam is all over the social media with widespread support to his candidacy from the public. However, unfortunately public opinion is rarely considered in today’s politics. Congress is expected to announce either Vice-president Hamid Ansari or Pranab Mukherjee. However, the risks of creation of a vacuum in the cabinet and that too in a critical ministry at such a time is something the Congress will have to weigh while considering Pranab’s candidature.
BJP on its part is said to be waiting for the announcement of a strong candidate from the regional parties to support and take forward, as this time around, the regional parties are expected to play a bigger role. Also, the recent announcement by Sushma Swaraj, of BJP, denouncing the proposed naming of Hamid Ansari’s candidature, claiming that he was not of a suitable stature to be considered for the post, has drawn a lot of flak from within as well outside the NDA alliance. Infact, CPI(M) and Nitish Kumar have distanced themselves from this, thus, in a way showing displeasure over the sudden display of its cards by BJP. There have also been some suggestions of a possible election of an apolitical person to the post, a person of the stature and merit befitting the first citizen of the world’s largest democracy. The names that are doing round here are of ex-Infosys chief N. Murthy and that of former RBI governor, Mr. Rangaranjan. However, their chances are very less because of the heavy level of politics being played out by lobbyists and parties to get their own candidate in place. There are even talks of a possible Christian President this time, for there have already been representation of the other religions in the post. In-fact, if the election of our current president is to be analysed, it would unravel the dirty politics employed by the Congress and its allies to get a women(with no regards to stature or merit) to the position so as to take the credit for putting into place India’s first women president. The amount of politics behind the simply thought out election procedure by the framers of our constitution makes one wonder on the integrity of candidates coming up and of what impression would the world get from the way India’s elects its first citizens. Yet another serious question, in line of many already piled up, for our current breed of politicians to think and ponder over?
On our parts, we can at best hope that the leaders rise up this time around and elect a suitable person, based on merit to the post.