The likely Presidents and others
With the elections to the offices of the President and Vice President just a few months away, speculation on who should be the chosen ones has already begun. While the Vice President’s election will be held in August, the Presidential poll is slated for early July.
The front-runners for the top position so far include Vice President Hamid Ansari, Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee and former president Abdul Kalam. It is very much possible that none of them may eventually make it to the august office since there will be a lot of twists and turns during the run up to the final date.
What has to be seen is whether Ansari will join five other Vice Presidents who failed to make it to the top office or like many other Vice Presidents get elevated in the near future. It is important to point out that five vice presidents—M.Hidayatullah, B.D.Jatti, G.S.Pathak, Krishan Kant and Bhairon Singh Shekhawat failed to make it to the office of the head of state even though they were all men of great stature. Interestingly, some others who had never served as vice Presidents, however rose to become Presidents. This list includes, Fakhruddin Ahmed, Neelam Sanjiva Reddy, Giani Zail Singh, Abdul Kalam and Pratibha Patil. Therefore to assume that the current Vice President can get elevated automatically to the top job is not the accurate way of looking at things. Ansari is a favorite but there is many a slip between the cup and the lip.
Pranab Mukherjee by far is the most competent name from amongst the political class of this country for President ship. His candidacy is dependent partly on Congress President Sonia’s Gandhi’s decision and partly on how the allies and others look at his name. For instance if Mulayam Singh Yadav was to categorically propose his name, it will be extremely difficult for anyone in the Congress to oppose it. And once Congress also says yes, a lot of others will follow suit. Pranab Da is the leader of the House in the Lok Sabha and apart from being the UPA government’s troubleshooter is one of the senior most Parliamentarians in this country. Only Union Minister Virbhadra Singh and Dr Karan Singh came to Parliament before him. Incidentally Dr Karan Singh’s name is also amongst the probables and he could the most acceptable name if the Congress and the BJP were to put up a joint candidate, which may not happen the way things are.
On Pranab Mukherjee’s candidacy, a joke doing the rounds in political circles is that if he was to become the President, the country would have a Presidential form of government given that he is the one who has virtually been running this government even as the Finance Minister and leader of the House.
Abdul Kalam is a scientist of great repute and was the people’s President during his first tenure. But the fact that he was a NDA nominee does not go well with a section of the country’s Muslims. By referring to his name, Sushma Swaraj has needlessly involved him in a controversy within the NDA. He is naturally a good name but whether he will get the required support is to be seen. Sushil Kumar Shinde, the Power Minister could be the best bet of the Congress if a Dalit nominee was to be chosen for the coveted job. Shinde was the party’s nominee against Shekhawat for the vice presidential poll but lost. One reason was that many Congress leaders voted on Caste lines in favour of Shekhawat who was a Rajput. Lok Sabha Speaker Meira Kumar’s name also has been in circulation but it is unlikely that a second woman in succession could be considered for the President’s post. A political consideration which could come in the way of Meira Kumar could be that her candidacy will cut the Congress from the BSP for all time to come as the dividing line would be the rivalry between Meira’s father late Jagjiwan Ram and late B.R.Ambedkar.
There are others but their seriousness as candidates will depend largely on who proposes their name. It is also not good to assume that anyone whom the Congress wants will make it to the august office. The numbers and vote percentages attributed to various formations are an erroneous way of looking at things. There can be cross voting and all calculations can go haywire. In the VV Giri Vs Sanjiva Reddy battle in 1969, Congress party was split for the first time. It was also for the first time an Independent nominee scored over the Congress candidate as he had sought a conscience vote. It was one election, which propelled Indira Gandhi as the unquestioned supreme leader of this country.
But there is no doubt in anybody’s mind that the Presidential elections will be the ultimate Game Changer for national politics and lot of things will happen during the run up and after the polls.