Out of my mind: Kaun banega Rashtrapati?

Party strength in the collegium which will elect the winner has been calibrated. It may already be too late to even raise the question as to who.

Written by Meghnad Desai | Updated: April 16, 2017 5:28 am
president of india, presidential election india, rashtrapati india, pranab mukherjee, apj abdul kalam, abdul kalam, VV giri, vice president india, india news, indian express, indian express editorial First a small complaint: why Rashtrapati? Why not Rashtrapramukh?

It is that time again. With the Budget out of the way and the end date of the incumbents looming, attention can now be shifted to the quinquennial Big Game – the election of the president and vice-president.

First a small complaint: why Rashtrapati? Why not Rashtrapramukh? I recall reading many years ago of a villager asking: as Gandhiji was Rashtra-pita, was Rajendra Babu his son-in-law, as he was Rashtra-pati? Should we not have gender-free titles?

The substantive matter is vital. These offices should be for people who command support from all sides. That was the case with the first three presidents. Then, with the contest between V V Giri and Neelam Sanjiva Reddy, Indira Gandhi broke that tradition. Presidency became a demonstration of strength of the ruling party. Senior Congress leaders could dream of occupying Rashtrapati Bhavan if they were on the right side of the Family.

When K R Narayanan became president, there was a person who was able to engage the public but also represented a significant minority — the Dalits. Since then there are certain unstated considerations which shape the choice of both high offices. One is to be representative of the diversity of India, be it regional, linguistic, jati or tribe. Often the choice for the vice-presidency bears the burden of reflecting diversity, which allows the bigger job to be decided on purely political grounds.

Without prejudice to the incumbent, it is indisputable that of all the presidents of recent years, it was President Abdul Kalam who connected best with the people. He aroused genuine affection. He was a teacher and a mentor to many, even from a distance. He was unusual in many respects.

He came from outside party politics. His being Muslim (Atal Bihari Vajpayeeji, picking him, surprising many of his detractors) was not his only card. It was his expertise as a scientist, his ability to rise above all politics and his informality which won all the hearts. His passing away saw a genuine national mourning.

Of course, not everyone can be Abdul Kalam. But one idea is that there ought be a way of inviting suggestions from the public as to who they would like to see in the top seat. Ultimately, senior politicians will always be in the fray. The political parties are already manoeuvring with names.

Party strength in the collegium which will elect the winner has been calibrated. It may already be too late to even raise the question as to who. Some senior BJP persona; who else? Quality of the person chosen is hardly a consideration. The point is to show who is now in power.

Even so, we need a greater engagement of the citizens in the process. It may be not officially possible, but it is open to the media to invite suggestions and conduct a poll among the top ten names. Even better would be to ask people to rank their choices by a Single Transferable Vote.

That in itself would be an education. Of course, this is not a popularly elected post. The Constitution is clear. It is however a ceremonial job. It affords the winner a fantastic platform to become the nation’s interlocutor. The collegium should know.

Make a start with the vice-presidency. How about a national poll?

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  1. M
    Meghchand
    Apr 17, 2017 at 1:37 pm
    Why not Megh.fa.rt?
    Reply
    1. M
      Mohan
      Apr 17, 2017 at 1:02 am
      Dr Abdul Kalam -- a rare person - a great Indian -- others no comparison !
      Reply
      1. G
        Gopalkrishnan Nair
        Apr 16, 2017 at 9:50 pm
        Hi you gujarathi joke. What are you doing in India. Be in England to do the damages you are capable of there. If you want to lick Modi's, do it from London where you are treated like... You know. If Indian MODIA wants to spread stinking gas from likes of you that is our tragedy. Let us ignore this joke.
        Reply
        1. D
          Dharadhar
          Apr 16, 2017 at 9:49 pm
          How about Dr. Mashelkar?
          Reply
          1. B
            Bharat
            Apr 16, 2017 at 9:42 pm
            Or this time it could be some gujju selected by asok sah. Suggesting a few names anadiben or kodnani or Dr Padamshree Uma Bharti jéee from chaddi gang. Anybody for Asaram .... My best would be Laloo Prasad Yadav .... Or Manohan Singh because he will remain silenced.
            Reply
            1. B
              Bharat
              Apr 16, 2017 at 9:36 pm
              Lord why are you worried now. Wear some diapers. Where was your lordship when AngloSaxon Piggie Maino installed a mute pm and and a cook as president. Bhaiyya jiske lathi uski bhais. Go to sleep. Too much b y
              Reply
              1. S
                S ashok
                Apr 16, 2017 at 7:46 pm
                Tumhe kya Megnad Bhai.Tu brexit ki chinta kar. India will take care of herself.
                Reply
                1. D
                  Deep Thought
                  Apr 16, 2017 at 6:36 pm
                  Shashi Tharoor, of course! He's literate, knowledgeable, vocal, young, dynamic...
                  Reply
                  1. M
                    Mukundan Nair
                    Apr 16, 2017 at 6:24 pm
                    India made scientist President. Now it is time to get engineer. My option is Shri. E. Sreedharan.
                    Reply
                    1. S
                      S. Kumar
                      Apr 16, 2017 at 10:11 pm
                      Good choice.
                      Reply
                    2. S
                      Sanjay Singh
                      Apr 16, 2017 at 3:36 pm
                      100 sure Sushama swaraj is going to be next President and she is acceptable to everyone. She has shown her ability as best foreign minister and known personality in the world at this moment, having good tume with MODI vision. Vice president post will go to MURLI mANOHAR jOSHI. He is educationist, great scholar and administrator.
                      Reply
                      1. S
                        Syed Shabbir
                        Apr 16, 2017 at 2:07 pm
                        Najma Heptullah for next President
                        Reply
                        1. S
                          S. Kumar
                          Apr 16, 2017 at 2:39 pm
                          I second the proposal!
                          Reply
                        2. P
                          Parth Garg
                          Apr 16, 2017 at 12:20 pm
                          Whoever it is. The only qualification needed is being Yes Man of Modi. Even otherwise the President's is only a figurative post.
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                          1. D
                            D.K.Panxey
                            Apr 16, 2017 at 12:13 pm
                            Amitabh Bachchan will be quite suitable for the president
                            Reply
                            1. M
                              Mukesh Goswami
                              Apr 16, 2017 at 2:38 pm
                              Admire your sense of humour.. and then who will do Navratan thanda thanda kool kool.. why not Rajnikant or Rekha or Javed Akhtar or Prakash Padukone and so on.. Let us not reduce this position to a level that we lose all respect for it.. Not that it matters with Modi at the helm..
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                              1. G
                                Gopalkrishnan Nair
                                Apr 16, 2017 at 9:55 pm
                                Please do not our country. This guy has sold his soul for money to MODI. He is small time but tall pretender. We have already one tragedy. Do need this one too. I will prefer Johny Lever instead.
                                Reply
                                1. J
                                  Juju
                                  Apr 17, 2017 at 1:35 am
                                  Yes. Very good suggestion .He is one of the two persons in the w world who are doing acting all the 24 hours ...the other one is Respected Modi Ji
                                  Reply
                                2. K
                                  Kamal Pasha
                                  Apr 16, 2017 at 12:05 pm
                                  Dawood Ebrahim, who else. The very best choice for Modi .
                                  Reply
                                  1. A
                                    anandap
                                    Apr 16, 2017 at 11:44 am
                                    If Modi Government chose a president like APJ Abdul Kalam, people would appreciate and stand with this Government at high esteem position!
                                    Reply
                                    1. T
                                      TIHAEwale
                                      Apr 16, 2017 at 11:21 am
                                      Sumitra Mahajan, Gurumurthy or Kalyan Singh ( he needs protection as Babri Masjid case trial to be fast paced after 25 years)
                                      Reply
                                      1. S
                                        S. Kumar
                                        Apr 16, 2017 at 10:21 am
                                        Please don't make sourpuss Advani, or worse, Jaitley President. In my view, they will be a nightmare, even worse than the current fellow.
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                                          paban ghosh
                                          Apr 16, 2017 at 9:55 am
                                          Given his experiences in variety of affairs from finance to foreign, defence to trouble shooting across party lines, Pranab Mukherjee should be kept in mind for second time as well. He' is clearly able and capable.
                                          Reply
                                          1. S
                                            S. Kumar
                                            Apr 16, 2017 at 10:42 am
                                            You are joking? Look up Pranab's political history and career. He was a pucca Nehru- hi loyalist. Undeserving in my opinion.
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                                              paban ghosh
                                              Apr 16, 2017 at 5:57 pm
                                              It's not a joke. He even does not agree with congress on number of issues. He supported the present P.M. Don't forget, he is the architect behind USA-INDIA Nuclear deal. Again let me reiterate, he a sharp thinker and task master.
                                            2. J
                                              Juju
                                              Apr 17, 2017 at 1:41 am
                                              How can Respected Modi can even shortlist a man of independent thinking.Only a Prcharak of RSS is qualified to hold the post
                                              Reply
                                            3. S
                                              s
                                              Apr 16, 2017 at 9:46 am
                                              How about a Parsi gentleman as President ? Mr Soli Sorabjee or ex IAF chief. Fali Nariman would be excellent choices provided they agree. What about an eminent Catholic from the civil services or defence forces. Mr Julio Ribeiro would have been ideal but for his age. Any person who can add dignity to the post and demonstrate the real menaing of secularism to the world.
                                              Reply
                                              1. M
                                                Mathews
                                                Apr 16, 2017 at 7:46 am
                                                Why should not we go for a directly elected President and a presidential system of govt. Let us think of a stop to politicians' tribe.
                                                Reply
                                                1. S
                                                  S. Kumar
                                                  Apr 16, 2017 at 10:32 am
                                                  Why a Parsi? An Indian should be the President be it Hindu, Muslim, Parsi or whateve. Nariman, Sorabji and especially Ribeiro are utterly biased sickulars in my view. India is also inhabited by the majority, it is not only the minorities. Impartially and equality is of prime importance.
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                                                  1. S
                                                    S. Kumar
                                                    Apr 16, 2017 at 10:35 am
                                                    Sorry my reply to S has been erroneously sent to you.
                                                2. V
                                                  Venkatarama Muthuswami
                                                  Apr 16, 2017 at 6:59 am
                                                  Those ideas and suggestions are valid in a true democratic environment. Here, we have become experts in political football in "goaling" for Prez and Vice Prez. Even to think of Lutyen's pressi utes to explore public choice is as blasphemous as offending jihadists.
                                                  Reply
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