Wednesday, 2 May 2012

The game behind the scenes for electing the President

I am perturbed by the noise in the media about the criteria Indian political parties are adopting to select candidates for the Presidential election, and the kind of debate that is taking place in the TV studios, on a matter of this importance. Hence I thought of expressing my views here. Also, I am pained to write some of the things about our present President and Vice President. Its not meant in any way to demean the office they hold. Please share your thoughts about this election, which is going to have far reaching importance in the coming years.

Smt. Pratibha Devisingh Patil’s term as President of India ends on 25th July 2012. The political parties are now in an overdrive to find the ‘best’ possible candidate to be elected as the next President of the ‘largest democracy on earth’.  A few lines on how things have been in recent times, and public perception of the two most recent Presidents.

Mrs. Pratibha Patil’s tenure may not have been all that bad, had it not been for those family outings in the name of Head of the State visits, and then the scandal of post-presidency resting place in an area that was earmarked for the soldiers of our armed forces. Also, we can ignore the less than graceful surrender of the same in the light of vociferous public protest (on the ground and on social media), after raging down existing houses, pulling down many trees, there in violation of existing rules. Also, let us ignore the mess of her kin caught with money in an election campaign, and another huge stretch of land to a trust given to her kin in 2010. Let us also not talk of the old cooperative scam, MPLADS funds diversion, etc., prior to her rise.

Compare her tenure to that of Dr. APJ Abdul Kalam, or R. Venkatraman, or even K.R. Narayanan. You can make your own rank list who was the best. I won’t ask you to compare present President with Babu Rajendra Prasad, or Dr. S. Radhakrishnan – men who enhanced the stature of that office.

We have seen too many gray shaded politicians, and, one more won’t do much difference. Isn’t this our typical ‘chalta hai’ national attitude? I believe we all have Kumbhakarna’s gene. In a majority of Indians, it has mutated to ensure that we wake up every five years to vote one day, and then they go back to deep slumber, until next election. [In the good chunk of urban, ‘educated class’, the mutation has ensured that they do not bother to even wake up for that one day! Too happy to enjoy a day’s outing, since nothing can ever change the fortunes of this rotten country. Let me take care of my family, let others go to hell is the attitude. Again, it suits the politicians as this blabbering class never bothers to stand up when there is a need. To help them continue to sleep, the media ensures any effort at awakening them is tarnished and reinforces their preset thoughts. I am sure you know why the main stream media does it!] Now, why shouldn’t our Ravanas love us? They give us a few lollypops every now and then, and we can watch in awe their declared assets grow (there’s no explanation of how it grows). Again, let us not bother about that undeclared wealth, which can only be a guesstimate.  So, any small effort to question that loot is met with brute force (remember Rajbala?), and they talk of taxing the money which was fraudulently acquired. Govt of India has, in effect, declared fraud as a legitimate means of earning by such arguments on taxing money stashed abroad. Our courts which took up the matter are silent on this matter for quite sometime, for reasons best known to them. Let us keep it aside for some other day.

Now, if you have bothered to watch the television debates, stories in the print media, there are a few names doing the rounds on behalf of the ruling combine, particularly Congress, and discordant notes from other parties. To that extent, one should credit UPA for being more disciplined to achieve their objectives. Look at how some of NDA members reacted to a suggestion by one of BJP’s main leaders. Ten people, ten different voices, all of them helping the opponent find neat cracks! With such friends, BJP does not need an enemy to lose the battle, and Congress does not need friends (like Mamata) to win the battle! Ideally, realignment should happen to ensure the groups are on some ideological basis, rather than fooling the people by their fake pro- or anti- (Congress / BJP). Isn’t it asking for too much when opportunism rules the roost? As long as we the citizens continue to be mute spectators to this tamasha, they continue their trapeze acts in search of perpetual power, escape from prosecution, shielding for investigation, etc. So, the democracy continues to work to save their interests. [Who cares if a few farmers commit suicide daily! Who cares if loss making public or private enterprises are given tax doles which are almost unrecoverable? Why bother about the mountain of the debt? Me, my family, my progeny are taken care of.]

The noises from the politicians in favor of their candidates are – their religion, minority community, in some cases, region they come from. Some of the names doing the rounds (from ruling combine) are - Vice President Hamid Ansari, SP President Mulayam Singh Yadav, former speaker of Lok Sabha, & NCP founder member, PA Sangma, present CEC SY Quraishi.  The arguments by their proponents, do not tell us the reasons why they qualify for this august office (In my view, PA Sangma, and SY Quraishi are pretty good gentlemen for the job). Of all the Presidents we have had so far, Dr. Babu Rajendra Prasad, Dr. S. Radhakrishnan, Dr. APJ Abdul Kalam, are the few most eminent ones to grace this office and have actually enhanced its reputation. In a few other instances, we have had reasonably non-controversial stay. And in few others, they have not exactly done justice to the faith people reposed in them (ex: Fakruddin Ali Ahmed - his contribution for Indira’s emergency declaration).

The election to the President’s office is a strategic one for the Congress party, this time around. Though President Kalam had won the hearts of common people (whom Congress professed to please with its “Congress ka haath, aam admi ke saath” slogan in previous LS election) with his flawless conduct, it was not keen to re-elect him. The reasons were pretty clear to those who watch the scene. When Sonia Gandhi went to seek his approval for forming her government, when Vajpayee’s govt fell, Kalam is understood to have asked some questions that stopped her and Dr. Man Mohan Singh was ‘made’ the PM. We were treated to the story of sacrifice, and breast-beating by Congress folks on their unofficially owned channels! And, a good number of Congress folks even to this day do not waste an opportunity to show that PM comes at number three (or, four, five – based on how deep their loyalties run to 10, JP) in their protocol!

Dr. Man Mohan Singh who is 79 years now, will not be the next Prime Minister, should Congress / UPA manage to win the Lok Sabha elections, whenever held. In case Congress manages to cross the 272 mark on its own, it’s quite possible that they may want to see either Sonia or Rahul Gandhi in office as Prime Minister. That’s the reason for propping the name of Pranab Mukherjee as a possible candidate. It is a graceful way of removing an obstacle from the path! Pranab Mukherjee is a very capable minister, who should rightfully get a chance to be Prime Minister if Congress wins again. But, no! Congress will say he is now entering into the eighties, it would be a burden on him, so we want to bring a more younger person as PM. Some sections of the media are suggesting that Pranab da is not inclined to be a candidate for President. It would mean Sonia’s headaches won’t go away that easily. What next? Get a pliant candidate in there.

I am not questioning the academic credentials of Mr. Hamid Ansari. Nor, am I going to talk of how his wife recently spoke in support of female infanticide (of course, she wanted to save them from future atrocities! Quite an amazing logic! But, the mainstream media (MSM) ignored it. Had such a line come from anyone associated with BJP, one can imagine their hounding of the entire organization.) Let us also not talk about the criminal records of some of the relatives of Hamid Ansari’s have (as long as they do not use his name in future to continue their activities or use him as a shield). I am more perturbed about the way he conducted Lokpal debate and helped scuttle it on that fateful night of 29th December’11. An important bill (however weak), which the entire nation wanted to be passed, was scuttled by the efforts of ruling combine with the RS Chairman, VP of India, in the chair, watching it. Those debates, and attacks, on citizen activists associated with Anna Hazare, and efforts to weaken the already weak bill through motions to defeat amendments, have given enough hints about the reasons for not allowing passage of Lokpal bill (so far).

Hamid Ansari’s name is doing the rounds strongly supported by RJD’s Lalu Prasad Yadav, another strong opponent of Lokpal. This suits Congress and UPA leadership too as the heat on the black money abroad has increased, apart from unraveling of scams by CAG, by an upright army chief, and the one-man army of Dr. S. Swamy. The Janlokpal movement of India Against Corruption and Bharat Swabhiman Yatra headed by Swamy Ramdev are coming together. This is a major headache for Congress. So, Hamid Ansari as President may well mean the end of the road for Lokpal, going by his support to scuttle the bill earlier. [Read it along with reports of movement of money stashed abroad by Indians. You will know what chances we will have to recover that another 5 years down the line.]

Hamid Ansari’s candidature is also being propped up by a few politicians saying he should be elected because he is a Muslim. Congress and a few ‘secular’ parties believe (or want to fool the Muslims) in electing someone like Ansari will please Muslims so that they will vote for them in next elections. It’s obvious, why they don’t care to check if there are better candidates from that community. At the same time, no one in MSM asks, why these ‘secular’ parties do not want to look at other minorities. A counter question to those who oppose Dr. Kalam, however distasteful it is to all who adore him, would be isn’t Dr. Kalam a Muslim? No one will ask it. The reason is simple - MSM and the secular parties don’t want ‘such’ a Muslim.

In India, sadly the definition of minority is very skewed one. A community who are in excess of 18 crores gets the minority tag. For the so called ‘secular’ political parties, Sikhs, Jains, Buddhists, or the tribals, do not qualify as some that need to be really treated as that minority and given the due preferential treatment. Since the time of Indira Gandhi, Congress has degenerated continuously, and it shows in its actions. In every election, or in selections for constitutional posts, or key positions in forces, judiciary, various commissions, the selection is sought be made on considerations other than merit. The fourth pillar of democracy, the Press (and Television News media), have been a huge let down, except for some stray cases of impartial reporting against Congress. Their bias in selection of news items, the pitch, the exaggeration, the coloring of the matter, and diversionary tricks are clearly beyond the fair coverage practices.

As citizens should we not demand or think on these matters? 
  1. Why can’t political parties present their ideas and candidates and debate the matter why a particular person is their choice?
  2. Why can’t media go beyond the narrative of who is a dark horse, religion, caste,  region they come from?
  3. Why is the mainstream media fooling itself that their narrative will be bought by all the people who listen to them? Today every decision is questioned, closely looked at, only if satisfied, the public accepts it. That’s the internet power, social media enabled India. Of course it does not yet reach a large part of unconnected India. But it’s forceful enough to make some in the MSM listen to the voices from here.
The government is already feeling the heat of public scrutiny because of RTI, and an active social media that is enabling a lot of educated citizens to question their moves. One of the most significant events in recent times, where both of them played a role, supported by a few committed journalists of MoneyLife, ensured the present President cannot usurp Army land as her post Presidency abode. 

The expectation of millions of common citizens of India is that we need a taint free person as the next President of India. If the politicians cannot set the bar high, let them open the doors for the public to directly elect a President. Let us change the election mechanism itself. These procedures can be amended.

The Constituent Assembly did consider direct election as a method to elect the President of India. But it gave into Jawahar Lal Nehru. [refer: page 189-190, Our Constitution, Subhash Kashyap, Publisher: National Book Trust, India]. The Constituent Assembly members did so in good faith. Since the time Indira Gandhi became PM, lot of things changed in Congress, and in India, for worse. If the present leadership of political parties want to make a mockery of the election process and the President of India a stooge, its better to change the system than let vested interests sabotage the interest of the nation.

I am sharing some of the links from [Thanks to Sucheta Dalal, Vinita Deshmukh and the team there] these may be of interest to readers.

Pratibha Patil’s house stands on A1 defence land meant only for military use; militaryspending its resources for her


  1. Very Good write up which discusses in length about the election of President. The author had shared his research to state how his conclusions are logical and true. Over all its a good write up on the games of politicians in general and the UPA in particular. I recommend all to read this article.

    Kudos good one.

  2. Good write up, in a way any layman whether enough knowledge of our current/past politics is known or not will understand the article. Pls keep up the good work.

  3. Great Work, Gururaj avare. Logically laid out with strong references. As being said by me, SM at this time has only limited impact on deciding these issues which are fought at dirtier levels - unless the SM savvy people have a controlling stake on any issues it would be tough to find a voice that can transform the system. CNNIBNLies, BarkhaBarks, FreeSadhviPragya,IBNNDTVCWGFraud etc were issues that stuck a chord amongst the twitteratis or FB'ers. And it mattered to those MSM channels since it hit their constituency (viewers).
    It is time that we take educative blogs such as this to the grassroots and educate the general Non-SM savvy public too
    Congrats on thsi excellent work

  4. I am in full support of what you have said. Sometimes the debates on television are so biased, I wonder how the journalists convince themselves that they have fooled the people.
    As far as the president is concerned I think it should be someone who is not only honest and knowledgeable about the Indian constitution, but also difficult to ignore by the politicians. The politicians should be forced to pay heed to his recommendations and opinions due his strature.

  5. Very well written guru ji, everyone must read it and forward to others for awareness.