Very soon the Congress will declare its presidential candidate. The party’s general secretary Mr. Janardhan Dwivedi bluntly asserting that no decision had been taken thus far dampened the spirits of Mr. Pranab Mukherjee’s supporters who had started to conclude from the media hype that his nomination was in the bag. The decision to nominate the presidential candidate has been formally assigned to Mrs. Sonia Gandhi. This formality was unnecessary. In any event the decision can be taken only by her. There has been persistent speculation based upon past history that Mrs. Gandhi is reluctant to nominate Mr. Mukherjee. So whom would she propose? Many names ranging from Mr. Shivraj Patil and Mr. Sushil Kumar Shinde to Lok Sabha Speaker Mrs. Meera Kumar have surfaced. It is anybody’s guess. My guess is different.
I think that the dark horse to block Mr. Pranab Mukherjee will be a leader touted as a great modernizer and technology expert who can also be paraded as a backward class role model. He will of course have to be fiercely loyal to the dynasty. The obvious name that comes to mind is of course Mr. Sam Pitroda. Mr. Pitroda laid the foundation for India's telecom revolution as an adviser to former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi. Now he is an adviser to the current Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh. The view that Mr. Pitroda will be Mrs. Gandhi’s dark horse was strengthened by the long interview he gave to the largely pro-10 Janpath NDTV channel. In that interview Mr. Pitroda recalled his own contribution to change India by introducing the telecom revolution. He reiterated the efficacy of quick easy information for ending corruption, improving governance and reforming the flagging political system.
Things became somewhat clearer after NDTV brought in panelists to participate in the interview. For starters the high profile Bangalore based corporate executive Ms. Kiran Mazumdar Shaw was asked to elaborate on her tweet that a non-politician should be the President. She did not waste time in mouthing generalities like Mr. Pitroda had. She straight away said: “I have rooted for him. I think Sam will make a great President because we need leadership. We need strong leadership, someone who is a man of the world. That's what Sam is.” NDTV was not to be left behind. The interviewer gushed: “Mr. Pitroda, she was not the only one rooting for you as President; the NDTV.com poll has you among the frontrunners.” Mr. Pitroda said: “I am not aware of it.” Modest chap hardly bothers what media and the world say about him! Subsequently Mr. Mani Shankar Aiyer, Mr. Chetan Bhagat and Mr. Saugata Roy also came into the interview. The most significant entry was of course that of Mr. Saugata Roy. He could not be unaware that the NDTV exercise was a not too subtle effort to project Mr. Pitroda as the next President. Would Mr. Roy have risked the displeasure of Miss Mamata Banerjee unless he was assured of her blessing to the project? As is known the biggest hurdle in the way of Mr. Mukherjee’s endorsement for the nomination comes from Miss Banerjee’s inhibition. If she has approved Mr. Pitroda’s candidature then Mrs. Gandhi’s dark horse is clearly revealed. Several months ago Mr. Rahul Gandhi had projected Mr. Pitroda as a backward class role model. The decision to field Mr. Pitroda as the presidential candidate might have been taken as early as then.