India needs a Gandhi as its President
The race for the next President of India is gathering steam. In the days and month ahead, this space will be actively watched with daily updates from the media (if not on an hourly basis). A lot of questions are being thrown up in newspapers and news channels every day. Should the next President be apolitical? Should he be from the minority community or a tribal? Should the Vice President be the first choice for the office of the President?
A lot of names have cropped up but at the time of writing this piece, the two names grabbing the headlines are Pranab Mukherjee & Hamid Ansari. There was some talk of APJ Abdul Kalam but it seems to have dissipated after some initial noise. The media likes to throw its own names and that explains the emergence of a Narayanamurthy or even a Sam Pitroda.
How does excellence in a particular field of work guarantee that it can be replicated in a completely different environment? It is like saying that Sachin Tendulkar will make a good Prime Minister because he has handled pressure, arising out of expectations from several million Indians, for the last 20 years. The reasoning is that he has delivered on the cricket field and he can be expected to do so in politics. Sounds far-fetched, doesn't it?
The way it works here (in this country) is that a candidate needs support from across the political spectrum to make it as the first citizen. If there's no one rooting for you, it's best to forget about it. If you are not the kind who will throw yourself in the ring or canvass for support, chances are that you may not be considered. Unless someone in a position to help decides to be nice to you. My sense (and it is at best an educated guess) is Gopal Gandhi has missed the bus for this reason, despite being in the initial list being considered.
In my humble opinion, amongst all the names doing the rounds, Gopal Gandhi is perhaps best placed for this role. First and foremost, he is not a member of or attached to any political party. Though not a politician, he has watched politics from very close quarters, first as a civil servant and then as the Governor of West Bengal.
In fact, his stint as Governor places him in a pre-eminent position because the job required him to play a similar role, on a smaller scale. A Governor of a state is usually a political appointee and therefore in a majority of cases, tends to get into some sort of controversy when the state is governed by a different party than the Centre. In such a case, one has seen the CM of the state or the party in power levelling allegations against the incumbent Governor of pandering to the Centre's interests or questioning his independence.
In the case of Gopal Gandhi, nothing of this sort seems to have happened. He is viewed as clean and non-controversial. He has handled various positions in the past including the job of Secretary to the President of India. He has also served as High Commissioner to Sri Lanka and South Africa and has enough experience in diplomacy. He is a well-meaning scholar who has written extensively (and continues to write) on issues of national importance. Having followed his writings for a while, his intentions seem noble and his approach positive. He comes across as a thorough gentleman in an era where few in political life can boast of being either thorough or gentlemanly.
But is that enough for our political parties to take note and field him for the highest constitutional position of the land? Shouldn't we have a President of impeccable integrity and unquestionable morality? The President's office has been tarnished lately with all sorts of allegations levelled. From appropriating government land for a post-retirement home (which she eventually gave up after public uproar) to turning official visits to foreign countries into a state-funded family holiday, a lot of muck has been thrown on the walls of Rashtrapati Bhawan. Its time the most prestigious address of the country gets a fresh coat of paint and some clean air to pervade its magnificent structure. I can only hope.
More about Rajen GarabaduRajen Garabadu is Chief Executive Producer - IBN18 Network.
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