Date: 27 Feb 2009


A President without a precedent 

All the people of the nation, including this thoughtless columnist, owe a collective apology to all the Presidents of the nation from Dr Rajendra Prasad to Dr Abdul Kalam. We had always dubbed those who occupied this ceremonial constitutional post as mere rubber stamps and unceremoniously dumped them en masse as of no particular use to the country at large. We had mocked at their political impotence, ridiculed their ineffectiveness and have even laughed at the slavishness of some of them. 

But all that was before Madam Pratiba Patil arrived on the Presidential landscape. Within a fortnight of the nation being introduced to and then getting 'familiar' with its prospective Prez, all the earlier occupants of Rashtrapathi Bhavan now seem like super souls. First Citizen, Second fiddle? So what? After all they were, by far, harmless though useless; those were indeed blessed times. In hindsight, I would not really mind a second term for a Zail Singh or VV Giri, were they to come alive. Call it Pratiba Effect. So, where have we come to now? From mere puppets to puppets with a past! 

A Google search on Pratiba Patil a month back would have yielded nothing. Try now and your PC's hard disk would likely crash owing to the flurry and force of info on her; info not at all very flattering to her. And info that certainly does not add credibility or respect to someone angling to occupy the highest position of the land, howsoever ornamental it may be. For instance, you will get to know in graphic detail about the bank that went bust thanks to its founder Pratiba and her relatives who helped themselves liberally to the funds of hapless depositors. And then there was the sugar cooperative headed by her that soured a bit too fast, with crores vanishing again into family coffers. 

We will now move from Business news to Crime news: Pratiba's brother is a murder accused. And the victim's family is accusing, with credible evidence, Pratiba of shielding him. Pratiba's husband himself, the future First Gentleman, is in the judicial docks for allegedly driving an employee to suicide. Indeed, it looks she could put the power of Presidential pardon to good use for her own kin, just as she obliged them with public funds. So, with the scandal-a-day rate at which the media is unravelling the exploits of this champion of women empowerment, rural emancipation and what not, you can bet by July 25, Pratiba would be carting loads of skeletons that can fill the cupboards of a hundred R.Bhavans! 

But apart from skeletons, there are ghosts too. Just the other day, she informed a befuddled nation that a long dead Baba reappeared recently to tip her off on her impending political elevation. The Rashtrapathi Bhavan may now need the services of a few exorcists as permanant staff members. We are itching to know what the rational K who proposed her, has to say on this. Again, her comments days earlier on the history of the veil worn by the Muslim women of India elicited not-so-veiled reactions from that community. Now, how are the Leftists going to tackle this direct hit on secularism? And worse for the comrades, Pratiba's primary bete noirs are the staff unions of the bank and coop society that folded. It also now transpires that she was an ardent advocate of the Emergency and also campaigned for sterilisation, come what may. All these must be quite enlightening to most UPA partners. 

But really, the allies care less about who sits where so long as they themselves are sitting pretty. And so Sonia would get away with inflicting one more grave insult on this nation. She seems convinced that this country would swallow anything, for it needs real gall to impose such a personality with such antecedents for the top constitutional post. After all we objected to Sonia's Italian origins. She has responded in a fit of perverted pleasure by giving us someone of unadulterated Indian origin. Can we complain? Rather shouldn't we be thanking our stars besides Sonia, for not getting Quottrochchi as our President? After all, he has now been exonerated albeit abroad, declared as more sinned against and has virtually been beatified as a Saint of Saints! 

And so Saint Sonia remains unmoved despite the all round clamour about Pratiba's past. Instead, it is her Prime Ministerial pet puppet cum proxy who has volunteered to bear the cross. Manmohan Singh has risen to Pratiba's defence, accusing her detractors of indulging in needless mud-slinging. But didn't we pick and pack all that mud only from Pratiba's own backyard? Forget the BJP which might have an axe to grind. Do all those mediamen who are digging up her past, the apolitical bloggers stalking the net and lakhs of aghast countrymen too have a personal grudge against a person about whom they knew precious little till a month ago? No one expects the Prez to command respect; but the citizens' concern is that the R.Bhavan should not become a political asylum of sorts either. So, wear your thinking turban, Manmohanji, before defending the indefensible! 

Again, the Cong apologists are trying to hide behind convention to cover up their murky choice. The convention of 'no-contest' is a Cong invention. The party was able to have its way on Presidential choice during most of the last 60 years because it enjoyed a clear majority. But things have changed; the Cong holds a paltry 140 out of the total 540 plus. Still the party and its leader act as if they own the nation. And to be talking of the sanctity of the Presidential post after violating it so blatantly by foisting the dubious PP is another unkind cut. 

The UPA had a choice: To Dump Pratiba or await a possible impeachment later. An unprecedented Presidential poll, indeed.

The fact that a country of more than a billion people ? with some bright people ? couldn't find anyone to be its President is a telling shame on the manner in which our politics is run. The campaign has been scurrilous. In any other country, Pratibha Patil would have withdrawn, but in our country she is busy jetting around meeting chief ministers and rustling up votes in the states, which again is abominable.