The seventh part in serial posts in the run-up to India’s Presidential and Vice Presidential elections 2012.
Unless there are dramatic developments, the race for the Indian Presidential House – Rashtrapati Bhavan – will remain a two-horse canter with one clearly trundling along. At the stage where the election for India’s 13th President is poised, all developments from now on would be to complete constitutional formalities and go through motions of the colonial pomp and show.
What is the most significant feature of the presidential election that was coming for five years – in the sense that it cannot be advanced like parliamentary polls unless in the event of the passing of the incumbent?
The most striking aspect of the poll is that both candidates have one commonality: they never hid their desire to contest the poll and succeeded in enlisting the support of political parties by an orchestrated campaign – and proper backing from select groups with vested and non-vested interests. Political parties played second fiddle to the candidates.
Pranab Mukherjee is a political stalwart and there is unanimity that his candidature is appropriate as he would make a very good President. But it must be recalled that he did not hide his ambition. In an interview with The Economic Times – as early as May 25 – Mukherjee “appeared to confirm, though in an elliptical manner, widespread speculation that he would indeed be interested”.
In the same interview he added: “”I love to walk in the morning… all by myself and my thoughts. I take 40 rounds of my lawn measuring 90 metres, which, I am told, makes about three-and-a-half kilometres. The President’s House, Rashtrapati Bhavan, has large lawns. One would not need 40 rounds.”
This statement was made more than a week before the Congress Working Committee met to authorise Sonia Gandhi to select the choice of the party. Even after that meeting, Mukherjee kept up his campaign – the day after the googly thrown by Mamata Banerjee, he was busy trying to enlist support and spoke Buddhadeb Dasgupta among several other political leaders.
What does this suggest? Either that Sonia Gandhi decided long ago that Mukherjee was indeed her first and only choice and asked him to drum up support from other parties or that Mukherjee left Gandhi with no other choice. The first possibility is less believable – though the truth may never be known unless one of the two opens up at some point. The second possibility demonstrates the complete crumbling of authority in the largest political party of the country.
The Bharatiya Janata Party too cannot escape the sentiment that it was forced to back PA Sangma because of lack of a well-thought strategy. The party was left with no option but to either back the former Speaker or not field a candidate. The two main political parties in India have been found to be wanting and this shows the growing weakness of the party-system that is becoming subservient to individuals with the right backing.