Needless controversy over Pranab’s nomination
A needless and totally avoidable controversy has arisen over the acceptance of UPA nominee, Pranab Mukherjee’s nomination papers for the post of the President. His principal opponent, former Speaker P.A. Sangma has alleged that Mukherjee’s signatures on the resignation letter with his affidavit that he had quit as the Chairman of the Indian Statistical Institute much before he filed his nomination were forged. The issue is likely to create an embarrassing situation after the results for the President’s election are declared and if Pranab wins, the outcome could be challenged in the Apex Court.
As per the rules of the election, once the Returning Officer has held the nomination valid, the poll can only be challenged after the outcome. The BJP, which is supporting Sangma, also seems inclined to make it a legal issue after the declaration of the results. On paper, the former Finance Minister is a hot favourite to win the face to face showdown. But the BJP, which is backing Sangma in the divided NDA with the JD (U) supporting Pranab, is likely to keep the matter alive.
The Congress managers like so many occasions prior to this seem to have bungled. They could have easily kept all the papers ready on the stipulated day of the scrutiny and ensured that no accusations were made against their Presidential candidate. With numbers favouring Pranab overwhelmingly, at least on paper, the nomination process should have been monitored in such a manner that no controversy cropped up at any time. But even now, the managers should anticipate an election petition later and start taking remedial measures.
President elections do tend to become ugly and there have been also occasions in the past when accusations have been hurled against the candidates. In 1967 when Dr Zakir Hussain faced a challenge from former Chief Justice Subba Rao, he was accused by the Bharatiya Jana Sangh and some other opposition parties of being anti national. The Organiser and Mother India, two principal opposition magazines came up with stories showing him in poor light. The charges, which were most absurd and had no basis did muddy the polls. In 1969, the most historic election for the President took place after the untimely demise of Dr Zakir Hussain when Indira Gandhi decided to pit the then Vice President V.V.Giri against the Congress nominee and Lok Sabha Speaker N.Sanjiva Reddy.
The election, which resulted in a narrow win for Giri, launched Indira Gandhi as the super star of Indian politics but led to an election petition against the winner. Giri had to appear in the Apex Court to give his version in an election petition. Fakhruddin Ahmed’s elevation as the President in 1974 led to the charge that the status of the head of the state had been lowered. Similar charges were made when Giani Zail Singh was made the President in the early eighties. During the UPA regime when Pratibha Patil was chosen as the first woman president, her opponents described her as someone who lacked the stature of being the first citizen. The short point is that the President polls always have led to some sort of controversy or the other but in the present case, the nomination process for Pranab should have been handled in a deft manner and not so clumsily.
One can only hope that in the coming days, the polls do not see any kind of serious charges being made against the two principal contenders. After all, one of them will be the President ultimately. But there are indications in political circles that the present poll will have its share of ugliness.