The Congress has rejected the proposed nominations for President put forward by Miss Mamata Banerjee and Mr. Mulayam Singh. The Congress said that the PM will continue at his post till 2014. We cannot say if this is the final word. But if not, Prime Minister Mr. Manmohan Singh has been afforded a unique opportunity to turn the tables against his silent detractors within the UPA and to change for all time the way this country is to be governed. Responding to a query about his becoming the President the PM had curtly stated that he was happy where he was.
From the sequence of events it should be clear by now that the decision to name him as presidential nominee might well have been a calculated move initiated by 10 Janpath. Miss Mamata Banerjee met with Mrs. Sonia Gandhi. Immediately after that she met with Mr. Mulayam Singh Yadav. Immediately after that the duo announced three names for President including that of Mr. Manmohan Singh. Immediately after that Miss Banerjee cancelled a scheduled meeting with the Prime Minister. Immediately after that as if on cue Mr. Sharad Pawar stated that the UPA should evolve a consensus regarding the presidential nominee. Can there be the slightly earthly chance for all UPA partners including the Congress to unanimously agree on the name of either Mr. Somnath Chatterjee or of Dr. APJ Abdul Kalam, the other two names proposed by Miss Banerjee and Mr. Mulayam Singh?
No, the target is Mr. Manmohan Singh.
The PM seems to share the widely held perception that the move is intended to kick him upstairs. That is where he can change the game beyond the wildest imagination of his silent detractors within the UPA.
Readers would recall that it has been reiterated in these columns the need for the President to exercise the powers assigned to the office in the Constitution and how the failure to do that have subverted the system and ruined governance. In recent days considerable comment has been expressed arguing for a reappraisal of the President’s role in the light of the current political paralysis. Recently there was even a day long symposium held in the capital in which constitutional experts participated to argue for such reform. A recently published book on the Presidents of India carries a foreword commissioned and approved by Rashtrapathi Bhawan. The foreword written by former Election Commissioner Mr. GVG Krishnamurthy endorses the view that the Constitution assigns executive responsibility to the President. So now this is no longer the view of a stray columnist. It is official.
The political paralysis that has overtaken the nation is perceived to emanate from the curious relationship existing between Prime Minister Mr. Manmohan Singh and the National Advisory Council Chairperson and President of the Congress Party, Mrs. Sonia Gandhi. This extra-constitutional arrangement has rendered the PM akin to a rubber stamp. Eyebrows are being raised abroad over this curious arrangement. Even London’s The Economist wrote a recent article pointing this out as the cause of India’s political paralysis.
Well, now the PM has a unique opportunity to end the paralysis and reclaim the spirit of the Constitution as written. He should seek the President’s post and start playing the role as envisioned in the written text of the Constitution. There is a great advantage if such reform were to be initiated by the PM. The gradual conversion of our political system in which the President must play partially an executive role would become much more acceptable to the public if a previous Prime Minister elevated to the post starts to exercise his responsibilities as outlined in the Constitution.
India needs a systemic change. The PM might get the opportunity to initiate it. By becoming the President he need not decrease his power but increase it. He will be liberated from the shackles of the Congress President and Congress parliamentary party. He will be accountable to all the parties and all the states.