The last several weeks have witnessed speculation on mainstream media and on social networks about who India’s next President will be or should be (the latter is a safer way to put it). There have been over two dozen names floating around. Some calculated guesses, some pure media speculation and some self-proclaiming their candidature.
Here is a list of the more prominent names floating around. I have included my comments in brackets against each name which is publicly available information and outside the bracket is my views based on what is being written and what I think.
The names are listed in no particular order.
Hamid Ansari (Born in Kolkata, from UP, 75 years old, currently Vice President, former academician and diplomat, represents the state of Uttar Pradesh) My personal bet is on this man, Has credentials, Has one feet each in the two crucial states of UP and WB
Karan Singh (Born in Cannes France, 81 years old, RS MP from Delhi, Hindu scholar, great national and international experience, proponent of culture, holds a doctorate, will bring some royalty to the Presidency, represents the state of Jammu and Kashmir) Second close contender
Gopalkrishna Gandhi (Born in Kashmir, 67 years old, former bureaucrat, governor, diplomat, author grandson of Mahatma Gandhi and C Rajagoplachari, represents no specific state) Will be the first from the Mahatma Gandhi family to hold the highest office
Farooq Abdullah (Born in Kashmir, 74 years old, RS MP from Kashmir, currently union minister, wife is of British origin, represents the state of Jammu and Kashmir) could be the first Kashmiri to hold that office but not many credentials
Parkash Singh Badal (Born in Punjab, 84 years old, RS currently Chief Minister of Punjab, represents the state of Punjab) has thrown his hat in the ring but two Sikhs being President and PM at the same time unlikely
Mulayam Singh Yadav (Born in Uttar Pradesh, 72 years old, former CM, LS MP from UP, former wrestler, represents the state of Uttar Pradesh) Keen on Prime Ministerial job in 2014 but open to President, hopes to be king or kingmaker
Sharad Yadav (Born in Madhya Pradesh, 64 years old, LS MP from Bihar, currently NDA convenor, 91 people like him on facebook, represents the state of Bihar) Could be NDA’s consensus candidate hoping to get Samajwadi support
Sushil Kumar Shinde (Born in Maharashtra, 71 years old, Union Minister, represents the state of Maharashtra) Was the VP candidate 10 years ago but lost, name not cleared from Adarsh scam yet
Sharad Pawar (Born in Maharashtra, 71 years old, currently Union minister, active in cricket administration, represents the state of Maharashtra) Dreams of being PM never got realized, would be open to Presidency though he said he prefers an apolitical candidate
The non-political variety:
While names like Gurcharan Das and Amartya Sen come to mind there has not been much chatter about them. Those who featured prominently are:
Sam Pitroda (Born in Orissa, 70 years old, originally hails from Gujarat, technocrat with several patents to his credit, currently Adviser to the Indian Prime Minister on Public Information Infrastructure and Innovations, credited with India’s telecom revolution in the mid-80s, one of the few technology greats who lived, worked and studies in the US but did not take citizenship) My personal favourite, has everything going for him except the BJP support despite his Gujarati roots
Amitabh Bachchan (Born in Uttar Pradesh, 69 years old, lives in Mumbai, Bollywood legend, former MP, represents no specific state) This could be Samajwadi Party’s surprise nominee, will be able to bring glamour and class to the Presidency
Santosh Hegde (Born in Karnataka, 71 years old, retired from higher judiciary, father was LS speaker represents the state of Karnataka) Does not have the political backing but his name has been mentioned as a worthy President. He and I share the same alma mater and same home town
NR Naraynamurthy (Born in Karnataka, 65 years old, founder of India’s best known software company, highly successful first generation entrepreneur, involved with civic affairs, represents the state of Karnataka) Maverick of sorts, has had communist leanings in his early days, fellow business partner Nilekani holds a senior position with the government but being outspoken can come in the way
Ratan Tata (Born in Maharashtra, 74 years old, needs no introduction, will retire from business later this year, represents the state of Maharashtra) India’s unofficial ambassador to the world, has rubbed the government the wrong way with his outspoken style but he is the kind of person India needs as President to being back stature to the office
E Sreedharan, (Born in Kerala, 79 years old, father of Konkan railway and India’s first two metros in Kolkata and Delhi, represents Kerala) On the wrong side of 70 but so are the PM and they PM in waiting. Could be a consensus candidate
TN Seshan (Born in Tamilnadu, 79 years old, former Chief Election Commissioner, aerospace engineer, represents the state of Tamilnadu) Lost the Presidential election in 1997 but if Jayalalitha wants to use her latest clout could prop him but very unlikely
Abdul Kalam (Born in Tamilnadu, 80 years old, former President, aerospace engineer, represents the state of Tamilnadu) Seems ever-willing for a second term but in a country of over billion people and in a list of over 20 solid names, seems a little overmabitious
The unrepresented variety:
[Senior most in Central Government after the PM representing Christianity, West Bengal and Karnataka respectively (religion/state which have never held the position so far)]
AK Antony (Born in Kerala, 71 years old, currently union minister, represents the state of Kerala) Too passive, will always be known more for his silence than for his uprightness
Pranab Mukerjee (Born in West Bengal, 76 years old, currently Union Minister, represents the state of West Bengal) Though a hardcore Congressman could be rewarded for over 5 decades of service to the country and the Congress party, Mamta may find it hard to say NO as he is a fellow Bengali but will have a tough contest if opposition does not agree, will be considered the Congress life saver at Rashtrapati Bhavan in 2014
Somnath Chatterjee (Born in West Bengal, 82years old, former Speaker) This will be an interesting candidate. Political yet non-partisan. He was the Goliath Mamta as David defeated over 3 decades ago to get on to the national stage. Has been discarded by his own party. Will be an interesting choice as he is yet to get rewarded for handling the Nuke Deal vote in Parliament.
SM Krishna (Born in Karnataka, 79 years old, currently Union minister, highly educated, father in law of the tycoon who owns Coffee day, active Tennis player, represents the state of Karnataka) suave and the tallest leader from Karnataka, unlikely to make it as he is not first among equals
The faces of North East :
Purno Sangma (Born in Meghalaya, 64 years old, former speaker, currently MLA, represents the state of Meghalaya) Would have been an ideal choice bringing more spotlight on a beautiful region of the country but his own party may not support him
Bijoy Handique (Born in Assam, 78 years old, currently Union Minister, senior most representative of north east origin Central government, represents the state of Assam) an interesting candidate but will need to convince the third front. Could be possible interim CM of Assam if Tarun Gogoi emerges as the dark horse
James Lyngdoh (Born in Meghalaya, 72 years old, former Chief Election Commissioner, known for his integrity, represents state of Meghalaya) Meets several criteria to be a great President but perceived to be close to Rahul Gandhi and may hence miss the bus
Highly improbable but you never know:
Manmohan Singh (Born in undivided India in an area now in Pakistan, 79 years old, currently Prime Minister, represents no particular state) In case Congress decides to relive the Prime Minister the best reward rather than leaving him high and dry would be to send him up to the President’s Estate
LK Advani (Born in undivided India in an area now in Pakistan, 84 years old, former Deputy PM, currently LS MP, represents no particular state) could be a surprise candidate if Mamta and Jayalalitha decide to get together and jolt the Congress, politics makes strange bedfellows and they have all been in the same grouping in the past
Shivraj Patil and Motilal Vora are two old Congress hands who could also be picked up from their boring jobs of being governor and party treasurer.
There is talk of not having two women in succession as President. Perhaps the incumbent’s mannerisms have scared the male dominated political class into thinking that way. It is absurd. For 50 years no one cared about men succeeding men. Some of the women whose names have done the rounds are listed below with ages in brackets
Lata Mangeshkar (82) – could be a BJP-Shiv Sena nominee as apolitical candidate. But she is over 80 with health problems and coming from the same state as the incumbent chances are bleak
Waheeda Rahman (75) – Most prominent actresses of the golden era, could be a surprise nominee
Meira Kumar (67) – as first Dalit woman in the office of Lok Sabha speaker has done a decent job, daughter of Babu Jagjivan Ram, represents the state of Bihar
Sheila Dixit (74) – as done a remarkable job as Delhi CM, now in the third term, maybe rewarded for a lifetime of public life
Najma Heptullah (72) – long-standing Congress person, senior most woman politician belonging to the Muslim community, switched to the BJP and has kept a low profile, a Ph.D. in Cardiac Anatomy from the University of Colorado at Denver, could be NDA’s nominee and a possible Vice-president contender
Feel free to add your names to this. But looks like everyone’s been covered. It is going to be an interesting election.
Short link: bit.ly/nextPresident