B S Raghavan

Next President should do India proud

B.S.RAGHAVAN | Updated on April 18, 2012

My immediately preceding column, “Give people a say in choice of President”, ( Business Line, April 16), has produced a crop of comments from a good number of eminent persons in public life.

The former Chief Election Commissioner, Mr T.S.Krishnamurthy, suggests a Constitutional amendment to include in the Presidential electoral college all elected representatives in local governments, as a way of broad-basing the composition of the electors to the high office.

Mr S.Kalyanaraman, who has held high position in the Asian Development Bank, supports the proposition, saying that the inclusion of members of the Panchayati Raj institutions will be consistent with the Indian tradition of janapadas and it will also strengthen those institutions and help them slowly evolve into the Peoples' Parliament like China's Peoples' Congress.

But the dominant reaction is one of extreme scepticism. My interlocutors have dubbed as ‘an idle exercise' any attempt at placing before present-day politicians the essential criteria that should govern the choice of the next President.

They feel that there is no way the political class can be stopped from going for mediocrity or a worthless dummy as the President, since it will regard as a threat any person of strong moral fibre and high professional and intellectual endowments with capacity for independent thinking.

I can't accept this as an argument for concerned citizens to remain mute spectators to perversities perpetrated in their name by politicians.

“We, the People” should not allow ourselves to be discouraged from performing our basic duty of ensuring that the political class and representative institutions measure up to our expectations.

We should all the time be conscious of the fact that it is our apathy that is to be blamed for the steep fall in the quality of public service and public life witnessed all around and for the persistence of intolerable evils such as persons with criminal antecedents being elected to Parliament and State Assemblies and appointed as Cabinet Ministers.

My mail has also thrown up the following names for consideration: N.R.Narayana Murthy, Sam Pitroda, Karan Singh, (Justice) M.N.Venkatachaliah, (Gen) S.K.Sinha, P.A.Sangma, Gopal Krishna Gandhi, E.Sreedharan, R.Narasimha and R.A.Mashelkar.

One or two have asked for re-election of A.P.J.Abdul Kalam for a second term, and one has derisively proposed the continuance of Pratibha Patil for another five years.


I do not consider it a good idea for the likes of Narayana Murthy, Pitroda, Sreedharan, Narasimha or Mashelkar to be even brought within the field of choice. For one thing, they will be ill at ease with the kind of issues the President will be called upon to handle.

For another, it is far more important for the nation to make the best use of their services in their own line for as long as possible, than to force upon them a role which they are not equipped to play.

Going by media reports, Somnath Chatterji and P.A.Sangma seem to be emerging as strong favourites among parties belonging to a broad political spectrum.

Either will be a happy choice, in my opinion: Both are persons of great distinction, besides being held in high esteem as parliamentarians par excellence.

It would also be the first time since Independence when a distinguished son of either the Eastern or the North-Eastern States would be getting installed as the President.

Whatever it be, the paramount consideration before the political class in the choice of the President should be that he should do the nation proud.

To fulfil this mandatory requirement, political parties should shed their narrow party interests, and agree on the best person for the job.

It will be wrong of anyone to look upon the President's post as a sinecure and the occupant as a cipher, with little use for the experience and knowledge he brings to it.

The Constitution has made him an integral part of Parliament itself, and on the analogy of Britain's Constitutional Monarch, India's President too can exercise the prerogatives ‘to advise, to encourage and to warn' the Government where nation's well-being is at stake.

That is why it is necessary to choose persons of true and solid worth to occupy the Presidency. Let us hope India's political class will act up to the sacred responsibility cast on it.

Published on April 18, 2012

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