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Why not Manmohan for President?

May 4, 2012

POLITICS in the nation is now centered on who will be the next president after Pratibha Devisingh Patil. Most political parties including the BJP are throwing up candidates for the post of President of India. BJP’s Sushma Swaraj said she and her party would like APJl Kalam as the next president. The Congress has been mulling on Vice President Hamid Ansari and Pranab Mukherjee’s name. Lalu Yadav has also backed Hamid Ansari while all and sundry excepting the BJP are not averse to Pranab Mukherjee as the next president.

APJ Abdul Kalam may be a non-controversial technocrat but most parties are not keen on him coming back to the Rashtrapati Bhavan. Hamid Ansari may be a possibility but his stance on Iran and in the IAEA has still not been forgotten. Pranab Mukherjee is too politically active to enter Rashtrapati Bhavan, besides his backing of the Emergency in 1975 may be a black mark on his nomination prospects.

The President of a nation as diverse as India must have a person who is non-controversial and largely apolitical with gravity that commands respect.  He or she should be a man of letters, who can steer the nation in case of a crisis. It is true that the office of the President of India is largely ceremonial but there are constitutional provisions that make him indispensable in times of political uncertainty. Morality and a sense of propriety above narrow partisan political expediency is what are required from a president during such times. For me none of the above, except maybe APJ fit the bill. But Kalam is a dark horse at best and UPA may find it impossible to forward his nomination.

India has been suffering a system where we have a prime minister who has little say in crucial decisions and those actually in power are calling the shots from behind the scene. This is an untenable situation and we as a nation have been living with this farce for long enough. No other nation of reckoning would accept such a curious situation. The opposition does not have the gumption to spell out this ludicrous sleight of hand that the UPA has played on this nation of a billion people. Manmohan Singh is indeed an honorable man. He is competent too. Left to him, he would have done a lot of things differently. When there are more than one centers of power invariably administration suffers, like it is now. It is well known that the Sardar from Gah in Jhelum, today’s Pakistan has limited say and in most matters crucial to the nation there is a coterie that is calling the shots. Sonia Gandhi is the only reason why Manmohan Singh is still in the saddle. But the Yuvraj and his henchmen expectedly have the ear of the Queen, who is most powerful. So there is a troika of power centers and the Queen with an obvious affection for the Yuvraj and her undeniable respect for the Sardar veers from one to the other, making it more of a game of which side will win which battle, big and small. The Yuvraj claims political muscle, which is indeed true – the Sardar cannot win elections for the UPA. In that the Yuvraj has a credible claim to power. If so, then let it be. The one who gets the votes gets the power – that is the rule of democracy. Then why this incongruous system where the man in charge cannot do what he wants and those in charge do not want to take the responsibility – the Queen a bystander taking one side and then the other. Political expediency wins most of the time, and the Sardar is left to lick his wounds, a pathetic sight.

The Queen that is Sonia Gandhi and the Yuvraj that is Rahul Gandhi must decide to take the matters into their own hands and be fair and upfront with the people of India. Its’ time the Yuvraj stepped forward and took the responsibility. This ridiculous argument of ‘working for the party’ cuts no ice. Best of politicians have worked for the party while in office.  The best way to work for the party is to realize the aspirations of the people who have voted the party to power. The only way that people’s expectations can be met is through the power that they have bestowed on the party and its leaders. I was shocked to hear a horde of leaders in Cabinet and State positions announcing that they would leave office to ‘work for the party’. A Jairam Ramesh can do wonders for the party if in these couple of years he manages to better the lot of the rural poor in a country like ours where there are reported farmer suicides in hundreds if not in thousands.  Rahul too can give the kind of leadership that the nation requires. Leaders can be inspirational and sometimes such intangibles are more important than being a good administrator. If Rahul can inspire the nation to greater heights then UPA has a better chance in 2014. The onus is on the young man and whether he has the confidence to pull this through. Two years is a long time in politics. If Rahul can show promise people will give him another chance. Looking for a full term to prove ones mettle is a show of lack of self belief. It is time the real faces in power come forth. It is time for Rahul to take over the reign. It is time for the Sardar from Gah, Manmohan Singh to be useful in a salutary position as the President of the nation.

It is indeed ironic that the Prime Minister of the country is apolitical such that he can use his experience in the highest office in the land to good effect as the Rashtrapati, while the Finance Minister, a prospective Rashtrapati is so steeped in politics that he cannot be accepted by many in the position. But that is how it is and that is perhaps a situation that must be confronted with all honesty by this nation of immense possibilities. Manmohan Singh may be kicked upstairs and I am sure he will not complain. The man may be tired of being a lame duck prime minister all these years. He would take a sigh of relief that the farce is finally over. As for his capability to be a guide and mentor to the nation that is an undisputable fact. I see no other public figure with the gravitas of Manmohan Singh around, no one better to reside for the next five years in the Rashtrapati Bhavan. It is up to Rahul Gandhi and his mother Sonia to show character and faith in their own capabilities to take the call and do what is right.

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