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Pranabda should stay out of Presidential race

B. S. Raghavan
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The Finance Minister, Mr Pranab Mukherjee.
The Finance Minister, Mr Pranab Mukherjee.

If a week is too long in politics, two months are close to eternity. On that count, anything can happen between now and the announcement of the candidate(s) for the election of the President in July.

All the names doing the rounds are of the categories of kite-flying or wishful thinking. However, there is one name — Pranab Mukherjee — that is seen to be rapidly gaining ground. In fact, reports emanating from knowledgeable circles in the nation's capital would have it that his elevation is all but sewn up.

Of course, for the record, Pranabda has been dismissing all talk of his notional ascendancy as “speculative”.

But it cannot be denied that generally, of late, his body language is suggestive of one who is of it but not in it. It would be evident to any perceptive observer that he is gradually disengaging himself, or being withdrawn, from arenas where he would have been a conspicuous player.

One cannot blame him, were he to be tempted by the broad, restful, sunny uplands of the Rashtrapathi Bhavan. He has been bearing a tremendous strain as the Government's trouble shooter and a person of all seasons.

There is no knowing the number of times he has sprung to the rescue of the Government, whenever it found itself in a crisis.

The kind of political marathon this 76-year old veteran has run would have left anybody else totally prostrate and drained out.

GOODBYE TO ACTIVE POLITICS

But does that inevitably mean that the President's post is the best suited for him? In popular perception, the sprawling mansions of the Rashtrapathi Bhavan and Raj Bhavans are seen as places to consign politicians and public figures who have nuisance value or for whom no other use can be found.

Even his detractors would not say that Pranabda fits into that description.Is it, then, that Pranabda himself has passed the word round that he is keen, for reasons of his own, to bid goodbye to active politics and get away from it all?

Having closely watched his career from his and my Bengal days, I bet, he will soon find it irksome to keep himself under wraps in Lutyens' cavernous catacombs.

I doubt whether, given his abundant energy, intelligence and inability to suffer fools, he would be able to contain himself when he sees mistakes being made or dire crises looming and whether he can restrain himself on such occasions from wanting to play a mentoring role.

I suspect that, given his impatient temperament, and in the context of the troublous political landscape that is taking shape in this country, Pranabda will be miserable in the Rashtrapathi Bhavan, all the time forced to walk on the razor's edge and make compromises with the dictates of his own judgment.

On the other hand, any kind of intervention on his part, however unobtrusively and sparingly made, and however justified in worldly wise terms, will be construed as the thin end of the wedge upsetting the state of delicate equilibrium that should be maintained between the President and the Government of the day.

UNQUESTIONING SIDEKICK

If it's the UPA that is behind the move to kick him upstairs, the question that legitimately arises is: Why is the Government so deliberately denying itself his known political skills just when the general election is round the corner and his mastery of the art and science of winning friends and influencing people will be most needed?

Is it that someone is wanting him to be taken out of the Prime Ministerial sweepstakes in 2014?

Finally, there is a clinching reason why it is wise for Pranabda to stay out of the Presidential race. From the time his name came to the fore, the blogospheres and the social networking Web sites are filled with excerpts relating to him from the Shah Commission's report on the excesses committed by him during the Emergency.

The finding of the L. P. Singh Committee which processed the report and of which I was the Member-Secretary, shows Pranabda, who was then the Minister of State for Finance, in a poor, and indeed, sadistic, light, as a sidekick of Sanjay Gandhi.

Pranabda should not allow Rashtrapathi Bhavan once again to become the focal point of unsavoury controversies.

(This article was published on May 8, 2012)
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Comments:

The move to make Pranab Mukerjee as a presidential candidate for the Congress is in a way perhaps to remove one weighty contender for the position of Prime Minsiter from the arena and thus ease the ascendance of the family scion to the prime ministership when the opportunity arises. Don’t we know the concept of ‘kicking upstairs powerful
contenders.

from:  s subramanyan
Posted on: May 9, 2012 at 10:25 IST

For all the praise heaped on Mr. Pranab Mukharjee, if you look closely, there is nothing good done by him for the nation in the capacity of Minister. Just routine firefighting. On the other hand (if you take finance ministry) Mr. Manmohan Singh and Mr. P. Chidambarum ( YES !) have contributed immensely towards present day economic growth of India. It is suspected that certain group (from CII ?) does not want Mr. Chidambaram to be Finance Minister. Before Mumbai attack , this group had tried to remove him from Finance Ministry, but did not succeed. But Mumbai attack was god send opportunity for this group and they eased him out. Before last cabinate reshuffle , there was vociferous attack on Mr. Chidambaram, to obstruct his reentry to Finance Ministry. Again there is talk of cabinet reshuffle and again attacks on PC. This group fears that if PC comes back then, again High profile Income tax commissioners will be suspended, some thing like Fringe Benefit Tax will be reintroduced or some other fear. Actually we need PC as our Finance Minister because we again need Dream Budget. But nobody is canvassing for him. Why ? May be because he has not developed powerful lobby like Mr. Yashwant Sinha has done, may be because he retorted to journalist” Our journalists write too much but read too little”. Reasons may be others as well.
But people of India know him as competent Minister. He is modest to call himself “ Lucky” . But during his tenure as finance minister he has done many things which helped India achieve high growth in GDP and increase in the number of Income tax payers from 70 lakh to 3 crore .
Let Pranabda become Rashtrapati and vacate chair for PC.


from:  Anil P.
Posted on: May 9, 2012 at 13:37 IST

As such the problems of India, corruption right from high level to panchayat level, population explosion, illitrecy, pseudo unemployment, caste and religion based politics, windfall profit oriented educational institutions/trusts can be addressed to only if the punitive action is taken against erring officials, politicians. As no political party seems to be inclined to attempt to do this these problems may worsen. Pranab Mukherjee having given his best in trying to stem the rot over the years deserves election to the highest office of the President of India. Let the young turks like Rahul Gandhi, Jyotiraditya scindia, Sachin Pilot take up the challeng and try to prove their worth.

from:  hariharan
Posted on: May 9, 2012 at 13:57 IST

An incisive piece as always by the writer who speaks from frontline experience. If his political past were to be held against Pranab, i am afraid, no one from the world of politics would qualify for the president's job. The sad fact is the nation lacks tall leaders, in fact none around who can inspire and enthuse the bewildered population. Compromises are inveitable as past instances show. Pranab may deserve a rest at Raisina Hill, but does he really want it - that is the question. His body language may show Pranab as being agreeable to play a titular role from R Bhavan. The grapevine in the capital also has it that Prnabda may be travelling to 7 Race Course Road instead of the Raisina Hill. How is it possible? But as the saying goes politics is the art of the possible. But the rub is the so called High Command would rather have Pranabda at R Bhavan than at 7 RCR. One has to wait to see what is in the womb of Time. RC Rajamani

from:  RC Rajamani
Posted on: May 9, 2012 at 14:49 IST

The author is essentially arguing on two grounds. First, Mr. Mukherjee is too energetic and politically active person who would find it difficult to merge himself with the mundane activities meant to be carried out by ceremonial head of the country. Second, his name features in Shah commission's report on 'Excesses during Emergency".

First contention is too flattering but not convincing. Instead of being skeptical, one should appreciate the fact that, for the first time, somebody who is politically active is being considered for the post. It is reasonable to expect that a person of Pranabda's stature will add new dimensions to the post which has become a paradise for retirees.
About the second point, yes there is some merit to it but Shah commission has not directly convicted him and also, even among common people, unlike communal Modi of Gujatat, he is not held culpable for purported excesses during emergency.

He deserves this opportunity to prove his mettle.

from:  Tofik Shaikh
Posted on: May 9, 2012 at 15:12 IST

This is in regard to certain observations made by Anil P appearing
above.

It is not difficult to increase tax payers form 70 lac to 3 crore, why
it can be taken to 10 crore also. But, the point is whether mere
increasein such number is cost-effective. There is no point in
includig Rs.10000 or Rs.2000 tax-payers and spending huge sum on the
establishment expenditure of Income-Tax Department. Secondly, as
regards Mr. Yashwant Sinha ( dubbed as having created powerful lobby
), I want to remind the reader and also others to the fact that it
is during the tenure of BJP that the Pension reform in Central
Government (and subsequently in State Govts. etc. ) were notified /
implemented and had the Central Govt. missed the bus then, one
shudders to think of the state of finances of the Centre now.

from:  vc sekar
Posted on: May 9, 2012 at 18:32 IST

Going by past precedents, with respect to criteria of candidates made President by Congress Party, Pranab does not fit the bill-mind of his own,ambitious,having staked claim to be PM in 1984 thus not giving confidence that he would not act independently. It is turn of South India .

from:  Paramjit Garewal
Posted on: May 10, 2012 at 09:08 IST

It appears the main reason to propose Pranabda's name for presidency is only to bring back PC as finance minister. I can bet the so called movers of the Indian stock market is manipulating the market precisely for that reason. When PC is amde Finance Minister, they will take the market up to establish their view on the performance of Pranabda as Finance Minister. No prices for guessing who is the main mover in the Indian stock market. Will I get a price if my prediction comes true?

from:  vijayalakshmi
Posted on: May 22, 2012 at 01:18 IST
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