Sushma Swaraj should have made a political case,not invoked an elite bias
In the gathering discussion on what should be the qualifications for the next president of India,Sushma Swaraj has just introduced a new word. Shooting down the candidature of Vice-President Hamid Ansari,the BJP leader said he doesnt have the stature. Apart from roiling equations in the NDA JD(U) and SAD have been quick to distance themselves from what Swaraj said her intervention could have the effect of leading the debate further astray. Because it is possible to argue both that stature is too vague,and that it has unfortunate connotations. What,after all,is the stature required of a president? Who decides how much stature is enough? It could even be argued by the BJPs critics that the partys yardstick smacks of communalism the SP has already said so.
But stature raises another set of questions that have less to do with its lack of precision and more with the specific meanings it is associated with. When it is not used narrowly to denote bodily properties,stature has been known to cover the distance between status derived from a level of achievement,to that which flows from privilege and entitlement. Surely Swaraj,of all politicians,did not mean to use the word in the condescending and exclusionary way it is often used to safeguard the privilege of elite clubs,to draw the line between us and them. Swaraj herself is a wonderful example of democracys ability to include,to surprise and unsettle expectations. She has travelled so far in politics not because of an always-already stature that comes from family,wealth or patronage,but by sheer dint of her excellence as a politician. The magnificent thing about democracy is that in it,stature is something institutions,not individuals,are invested with.
Perhaps Swaraj didnt really mean it the way it sounded. Perhaps she was only alluding to the BJPs muttered criticism of Ansari that he has been less than fair to the Opposition in the Rajya Sabha,as in the Lok Pal debate. If that is the case,why does the BJP hesitate to present a political case against Ansari for president,instead of hiding behind stature?