145. Pratibha Patil vs Abdul Kalam vs others…
There has been a month-long discussion in social media and main stream media about the disastrous Presidency of Pratibha Patil and the need to have someone with the stature of Kalam back at Rashtrapati Bhavan. This blog deals with the three issues separately. Yes, three issues – the two individuals and the word ‘stature’.
First things first. Who decides what is stature?And how can any politician or political party define stature of another individual is a question which will never have satisfactory answers. The dictionary has two meanings of stature (http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/stature). Going by either meaning, both Sushma Swaraj and Nitin Gadkari do not have stature (height) and (stature (standing in terms of achievement) more than the present President and Vice President. Fair, that their only motive is to put down the congress party and its Italian born President who has been leading the party that runs the government for the last 8 years. This definitely causes heartburn and if I were an opposition party leader I would not like it as well. But demeaning someone just because his religion and his good credentials do not match with one’s party ideology is outright in bad taste. If Hamid Ansari did not come from a decent background he would have asked Sushma Swaraj for an apology. But even before he can do that political parties and their leaders from that are not part of the UPA have taken up the cause and in the bargain pulled the mat from under BJPs feet of putting up a candidate of stature for the forthcoming elections.
We all know from civics classes in primary school that the Indian President is a rubber stamp and is used b the political party in power as a symbol of its strength. The Presidential election just helps parties play a game of oneupmanship and the candidate has no say in the matter besides agreeing to contest or not. By saying what she did about the non controversial and highly respected Vice President she only helped him grow in stature and missed a golden opportunity to put Congress on the mat. Well, in the end communication plays a big role and politicians who do not plan what they say and when to say lose out. (that is where the role of professional communicators like me comes in). For those who do not know the achievements of the VP before he took office 5 years ago check this out http://vicepresidentofindia.nic.in/profile.asp
Moving to the next topic of Abdul Kalam’s candidacy for a second term, the only party which propped him was the BJP which did not have the numbers but used him assuming wrongly that his name would rattle the Congress and draw support from some UPA constituents. If Abdul Kalam had the right set of advisers or the right frame of mind [I haved the highest admiration and respect for the man and not taking away anything from his record as a great human being] he should have announced that he is not interested in another term. But human nature is such we get excited and greedy when propped for a position we may or may not deserve. My point is if in a nation of a billion people we can have an Indian born Prime Minister over an Italian who is a legitimate citizen of India and could have been PM if she chose to, why cannot we have variety in choosing the nation’s 13th President rather than re elect the 11th just because he played with children and opened doors of his garden to families during his Presidency. (in fact the Presidential Palace has been open to visitors during all Presidential terms and the record number of visitors occurred during Patibha Patil’s term – http://www.indiainfoline.com/Markets/News/Record-people-visit-Udyanotsav-at-Rashtrapati-Bhavan/5381077394 Also what has been any President’s real achivement other than swearing in the chief justice and the union council of ministers, visiting states and nations and making customary speeched during Parliaments sessions and on national Days.
That brings me to the third point which is not a defense of Pratibha Patil but a point I want to make about a stature. The party with the majority in the electoral college decides who it wants as President. If citizens of the country want a say in this they should either join a political party of ‘stature’ and wield influence to dictate names of their choice. The media also plays this game very well by speculating. That is part of the business model and there is no questioning that. in 2007, when Abdul Kalam’s term ended the NDA wanted to give him a second term – not because they loved him but because they wanted to corner the congress which was not keen on re electing someone the BJP had nominated in 2002 when they were in power with a hope of appeasing the community to which eh belonged to do some damage control in the Godhra aftermath. Well, the result of 2004 in the background of India Shining proved otherwise. Congress was also not keen to promote Bhairon Singh Shekawat from Veep to Prez because of his strong BJP leanings. well, the rest is history and Congress used the opportunity to offer the Presidency to a woman in India’s 55th year of Independence. and that was a masterstroke. However, the only woman of ‘stature’ (pun intended) had migrated to the BJP. A lady by the name Najma Heptullah and the senior most woman – both in age, wisdom, qualification and experience was the then governor of Rajasthan. http://presidentofindia.nic.in/profile.html – this bio speaks for itself. Is there any other woman political or apolitical who had credentials that matched Ms Patil. I could not find one. But some sections of media, certain BJP sympathizers tried to throw muck on her throughout the five years. The entire controversy surrounding the home in Pune was also uncalled for. I know I will get pulled up for this statement. but it is within the rights of a President to get government accommodation anywhere in India. Just because the previous 11 did not choose non Delhi locations, this request by the outgoing President became an issue. But hats off to the lady for ditching her childish demand for her home in Pune.
Well, as I write this it is almost certain that as I write this blog that the next President will be either Pranab or Hamid and interestingly they are both K0lkata born which binds Mamata who has been undecided so far into a spot of not coming in the way of the first Bengali / Bengal born President.