B S Raghavan

Pranabda should stay out of Presidential race

B. S. Raghavan | Updated on May 08, 2012

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 It would be evident to any perceptive observer that he is gradually disengaging himself, or being withdrawn, from arenas where he would have been a conspicuous player.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.


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.


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.

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Published on May 08, 2012
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