Race for Rashtrapati Bhavan !


‘‘If I make you the President of India, what will you do for me ? ’’ That is the bargain.

The manner in which the various political parties and country’s most powerful politicians over the last few weeks betrayed an uncanny unconcealed tendency to hobnob and connive over deciding their respective candidates for the highest office of the President of Indian Republic is in itself a testimony and infact a case study for serious researchers seeking to decipher the changing contours of Indian Republic ever since the Republic was born over 60 years ago on 26 January 1950.

The founding fathers of Indian constitution had envisaged the office of the President of India as something of a democratic replica of the monarch of United Kingdom. The vision behind the concept was that whoever occupied the Rashtrapati Bhavan would be capable of adding to the esteem of the Presidential House. He would not have conspired or lobbied to reach the Raisana Hills but, on the contrary, the nation would have pursuaded him to enrich the Rashtrapati Bhavan aloft Raisana Hills by his distinguished presence.

No wonder, therefore, that when a consensus was being sought for a single name to be the first President of Indian Republic, there were more than one who qualified for the job. K Natwar Singh wrote in his book that there were atleast six members in Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru’s council of ministers who could easily be the head of any nation-state anywhere in the world. In the final reckoning, even though Nehru had a personal preference for Rajaji C. Rajagopalachari to be the first Rashtrapati, he bowed to the majority preference for Babu Rajendra Prasad because of the latter’s additional credentials earned during the freedom struggle. Nehru, thus, to be fair to him, lived upto his responsibility of rising above party or personal leanings to establish the tradition of choosing a Presidential candidate from the among ablest of the able, who could be seen high above all political biases and could be trusted for his integrity uniformally across the political demarcations.

Many years later, another Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee too contributed his bit to the enrichment of Rashtrapati Bhavan by throwing his mite behind APJ Abdul Kalam whose candidature was more than acceptable across the country.

But see, what happened in 2012. Instead of working together to secure a common consensus candidate among mutually opposed political parties and leaders, Election 2012 for a new President turned into a war of wits even among alliance partners within the UPA itself. While Sonia Gandhi might have been inclined to place her nominee in the Rashtrapati Bhavan the way she did last time by imposing a rather undeserving Pratibha Patil simply to assert that it is Sonia’s writ that runs, this time others too dared to be equally smart in the wake of Sonia Gandhi’s apparently weakening hold over the UPA conglomerate. Hence Mulayam wanted his way and so did Mamata. At the same time, in the ensuing “free for all”, virtually anybody who is anybody feels emboldened to aspire to become the President of India. Besides, we have some regular chronic aspirants like Laloo Yadav, Farooq Abdullah and Karan Singh.

Meanwhile, as decks gradually clear out for Pranab Da to be the front-runner for the ‘‘Race’’ for Rashtrapati Bhavan, the damage done to the institution of President will stand out for longer than expected reducing the common man’s customary reverance to more of a mere formality which Umapathy thus poetically quips ‘‘…Us Waqt Mujhe Chaunka Dena, Jab Sadar-e-Mehfil Aa Jayen !’’