The Best Man Loses Out Due to Congress's Political Chicanery
The office of the President of India is a high Constitutional and august office. The President unlike the Prime Ministers, political party presidents and the general run of the mill Indian politicians represents the sovereignty and the majesty of the Indian Republic. To tower above the motley crowd of India's politicians who in the last 60 years have distinguished themselves only by their lack of scruples and morality, India's President needs to be a person of excellent intellectual attainments and personified in him should be a quintessence of India's rich cultural heritage and dignity.
Further as the custodian of India's Constitution the President should have a pronounced political integrity and political morality to rise above narrow political considerations with an independent frame of mind. He or she should not be perceived by the Indian nation as having been propelled into the President's chair on grounds of 'loyalty quotient' or 'trust quotient' to a political dynasty or a political leader and that in future elections when fragmented verdicts would emerge the President so elected would safeguard and protect the political interests of those who put him or her in office.
The Congress Party this week has announced along with a last minute acquiescence by its UPA partners that the Rajasthan Governor, Pratibha Patil would be its Presidential nominee. By nominating a woman likely to be India's first woman President it sought to reclaim the high political moral ground to outwit and discomfit the Opposition presidential contender. It would truly have claimed the moral high ground had it declared at the outset its intentions to do so. But it did not do so.
The weeks preceding this announcement of a woman as its Presidential contender was marked by political chicanery in a most acute form by the Congress Party. The crucial issue for Sonia Gandhi and her advisers was not to find a Presidential candidate that would measure up to the lofty stature of former Presidents like Dr Rajendra Prasad or Dr Radhakrishnan to whom the nation could look upto but their quest was being determined by two factors. Firstly, the 'loyalty quotient' and the 'trust quotient' relative to the 2009 General Elections and secondly, how to pre-empt the strong challenge from the BJP contender, the incumbent Vice President Bhairon Singh Shekhawat.
Readers of this Column would recall that I had touched on Presidential contenders some months back and had analyzed how Dr Karan Singh , a Congressman of long standing, a highly rated intellectual globally and an erudite scholar of Indian culture and philosophy was the best candidate suited to be elevated to this august office. He towered above every other contender in presidential traits that India admires.
Oddly, in the first set of contenders that the Congress Party considered, the names that figured were Dr Pranab Mukherjee, Shivraj Patil and Shinde--- all Cabinet Ministers. Dr Mukherjee was strongly supported by the Leftists. This and the fact that he was twice a prime ministerial contender did not find favor with the Congress President. It was said that he was too important for the Cabinet to lose. Between the other two, the Congress President let it be known that Shivraj Patil was her sole choice. When the Leftists ruled him out, the Congress advanced the name of Dr Karan Singh who again was opposed by the Leftists.
It was thus at the last stage when all options were running out that the Congress Party suggested that the candidate should be a woman, and that they proposed Pratibha Patil, little known in India outside Maharashtra. With conflicting interests within the Congress Party and within the UPA, Smt Pratibha Patil emerged as the compromise consensual Presidential candidate with each of the coalition partners of UPA and particularly the Congress and the Leftists climbing down from their positions.
The climb down was not prompted by any lofty moral considerations but that the Congress President calculated that with such a move of proposing a woman candidate and that too a Shekhawat by marriage, the tables would be turned on the Opposition who would be hard pressed to oppose a woman candidate and that a Shekhawat would not be opposed by a Shekhawat.
In this political chicanery, the Congress Party lost out the 'best man' for the Presidency, namely, Dr Karan Singh. Had the Congress Party and more specifically its President, Mrs Sonia Gandhi had firmed in their choice on Dr Karan Singh and declared him as their Presidential candidate right at the outset, it was most likely that Dr Karan Singh would have emerged as a 'unanimous choice' of all parties as President , notwithstanding the Leftists.
In this game of political chicanery,the losses have been many. For Dr Karan Singh, it would be a sense of personal loss for having been made to lose out by his party, despite being the best candidate for Presidency. The Congress Party and the Congress President have lost in stature in failing to ensure that the best man for the job of President from their Party was not sidelined when they could have so ensured.
The biggest loss has been for India because once again after decades India would have had a brilliant intellectual and all the best that India embodies to adorn the office of the President of India with majesty and dignity.