Friday, June 08, 2007

Shivraj Patil is the best choice for President

The Race for Rashtrapati Bhavan is nearing finish. We will soon have a winner. And we already have the biggest loser: the selection process. It has nothing to do with the present government; it’s been a gradual decline since Fakhruddin Ali Ahmed left office in 1977.

“May the Best Player Win” is alien to our political system, where caste, creed, region, religion and loyalties count more than how good a player you are.

In spite of A.P.J. Abdul Kalam’s qualifications, grace and popularity as president, the political class is near-unanimous that he will not get a second term. After Kalam who? A lot of names were given as the possible answer to the question and then suddenly something happened. That something may turn out to be a blessing disguised in a well-tailored bandhgala. Ladies and gentleman, the frontrunner for the president’s post, is Shivraj Patil, the most well-dressed, suave and gentlemanly politician of our times.

And here’s why he is a blessing in disguise. If he becomes India’s President, the Union will finally have a home minister. Patil was never quite at home handling home affairs. His term started with a conflict that engulfed large parts of Manipur. The man sat in North Block for months as Manipur burned. He followed that up with the luckless lifting of the ban on People’s War in Andhra Pradesh. He had no followup strategy. The Maoists rearmed and regrouped as central and state governments waited for peace to drop from the sky. That ceasefire was soon in tatters. We are yet to see the government-Maoist talks. Today, Mao’s ideological progeny run a Red corridor from Nepal to Tamil Nadu.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had begun with two boulders tied to his feet. With Shivraj Patil’s exit, he can think of sprinting. Well, almost. The other, Kunwar Natwar Singh, ejected himself not so long ago. Singh was foreign minister material for the 1960s and even the 70s. But, alas, it was Century No. 21 and he refused to come out of the time warp. So he began with a madcap scheme to revive the Non-Aligned Movement, followed it up with a series of foot-in-mouth mishaps, and ended up as food for the oil-for-food scandal. Last heard, he was unsuccessfully campaigning for Mulayam Singh Yadav.

Mr Patil, however, is free from the diseases afflicting Natwar. He rarely opened his mouth and when he did he made sure the pedicure wasn’t spoilt. He found three starched suits in a day more hospitable than the metaphorical time warp. He understood the virtues of loyalty to the leader. After all, these qualities had won him the home minister’s chair, even after losing his Lok Sabha seat. The same qualities make him the President probable. With the threat of a hung House post-2009 general election, the ruling coalition would need a pliable President.

The only obstacle in Mr Patil’s way to Rashtrapati Bhavan is that he’s not the unanimous choice yet. Pranab Mukherjee is the unanimous choice, but Congress President Sonia Gandhi has rightly told him to withdraw from the race. Both the party and the government could use him and his political and administrative skills. The President’s post is largely ceremonial. There’s no man better suited for ceremonial duties than Mr Shivraj Patil.


pOlO said...

One argument goes that president must always be a person with political experience.. I loved Kalam, though. HE is a President with a mind of his own and he has inspired millions. But he is not going to continue. Patil or Mukherjee, however experienced they might be, look like old fossils now.. Can't we have fresh names?

Anonymous said...

What about Pratibha Patil .... instaed of Shivraj Patil.. Hmm i think Surname remains the name... name doent matters and ya gender changed .. n dat really matters...

pOlO said...

ahh.. pratibha patil is a shock.. i cringe at the prospect of she becoming the `rubberstamp' prez.. God save us!

NeeTo De' said...

In the Indian political system where the prez remains as the puppet in the hands of ruling party... definetely Kalam popularity was superceeding the popularity of PM and the ruling party. Though every citizen of India unanimously loved him and wanted him back as President for the Second term too... it the political class who wont let it happen. that's what is called politics.