President Pratibha Patil,the Supreme Commander of the Indian armed forces,feels the perceived stand-off between Army Chief General V K Singh and the government should not have happened. Admitting concern over the issue,she told The Sunday Express in an exclusive interview: I thought this was something that should not have happened. It should have been handled in a disciplined manner.
While Patil refused to elaborate on the discussions she may have had on the matter with either the Centre or defence officials,the President talked at length about what it meant to be the first woman in Indias highest office,what she felt her achievements had been,her passions and concerns,as well as about her possible successors. The interview was conducted hours before the Presidents announcement that she was giving up the Pune house allotted to her post-retirement following the controversy over it.
According to Patil,the one quality her successor must possess is mental poise and presence of mind in the numerous trying circumstances that she or he would have to face.
While reserving comment on calls for an apolitical president,Pail pointed out during the interview that it was actually her vast experience in politics and administration,at various levels,that groomed and equipped her for the job. It was exactly five decades ago that Patil was first elected as an MLA from Maharashtra,at the age of 27.
With the row over her post-retirement home the latest controversy to dog her tenure,Patil said she was worried,disturbed and pained by people not verifying facts before jumping to conclusions. She embarked on the last foreign tour of her tenure to Seychelles and South Africa on Saturday,and reacting to allegations of record spending on her trips,she said people did not realise that these visits were not of the Presidents own accord but part of the Indian governments foreign policy initiative and decided by the government.
While the number of mercy petitions pending with the President have also been a matter of much debate,Patil said it would be inappropriate for her to comment on some of the cases. However,she hinted that it was essential to retain the death penalty as prescribed by the Constitution,but only in the rarest of the rare cases.
Asked about her earlier pronouncements of not wanting to be a mere rubber stamp,Patil said it wasnt just the Executive that epitomised democracy in our system,but the Legislature,with both Houses being overseen by the President.
She admitted that what she saw in the Houses at times did worry her but added that she was optimistic and hopeful of political parties being able to navigate their way around issues dividing them.
According to her,agriculturists were the true entrepreneurs and risk-takers,as well as the unsung heroes in the India story.