Above Partisan Politics
After all the brouhaha, Dr APJ Abdul Kalam has turned down the claim to contest the Presidential post. In fact, with no indication that there were enough numbers to ensure his return to Rashtrapati Bhavan, Dr Kalam declared that he would not contest the Presidential election. With Dr Kalam not willing and the NDA divided, the BJP, in its desperate efforts to checkmate the UPA over the Presidential election, has only ended up exposing its own weaknesses. Foremost among these is its complete bankruptcy of ideas. This was exemplified in the manner in which the BJP-led NDA did all it could to get former President Kalam to throw his hat in the ring. Even now the BJP, the largest constituent of the NDA, continues to pursue a rather negative course of action by announcing to support the former Lok Sabha Speaker PA Sangma, just to spite the UPA. Mr Sangma, being backed by two powerful Chief Ministers, namely Naveen Patnaik of Odisha and J Jayalalithaa of Tamil Nadu, in his desperation to contest Presidential election, has also left the Nationalist Congress Party. It is noteworthy that all these days, the BJP had taken the high moral position that it would reveal its mind on the Presidential election after the Congress declared its candidate. But, now that the Congress has chosen Mr Pranab Mukherjee for the post, and Dr Kalam’s has refused to contest, the BJP and the NDA that it leads appear to be in an even more befuddled state of mind. Sections within the BJP are in favour of Mr Mukherjee and do not want a contest. And there is another group that does not see any political sense in allowing the Congress candidate to be appointed President without a fight. Worse, the partners of the NDA too seem unsure of how to respond to Mr Mukherjee’s candidature. It seems that the JD(U) does not want to challenge the Congress’s choice and the Shiv Sena also accepts Pranab Mukherjee’s candidature. So the cracks within the NDA are quite manifest. It would have been thought that the NDA would be united in opposing the Congress. But, if the NDA cannot unite even on the Presidential poll, how can we expect the coalition to provide us an alternative government in place of the Congress-led UPA?
It is quite disturbing to see that for all political parties—whether it be the Congress, the BJP, the SP, the TMC or others—integrity, principles, morality, probity and ethics do not matter in the final analysis. Against this backdrop, it is worth mentioning that in the last week, when the Congress was reeling under the embarrassment of the humiliation inflicted by Mamata Banerjee and Mulayam Singh, the BJP watched the entire episode with manifest glee. Just the sight of Mamata Banerjee whipping up a political typhoon in Delhi and working to wreck Pranab Mukherjee’s candidature for the Presidency—effectively pushing her testy relationship with the Congress to the brink of a break—gave the BJP an armchair adrenaline rush. If the Mamata-Mulayam revolt had played according to the original script, the very survival of the UPA government might have been on the line, and mid-term elections would have been inevitable, perhaps as early as this year. And although the BJP itself appears far from ready for a mid-term election, it had reason to believe that it would have politically gained from the spectacular undoing of the UPA. But by the end of last week, the Congress had managed to stumble through its acute political crisis and had even managed to pull off a favourable alignment of political forces. Having first weaned away Mulayam Singh from his opportunistic partnership with Mamata, it has politically isolated Mamata—to the point where she is back in Kolkata, fretting and fuming about the political ‘treachery’ that was inflicted on her.
Vigorous political competition for the office of the first citizen is a good thing, as it holds enormous responsibilities and it should be a sign of healthy politics if parties argue with each other with true concerns. For, in our country, the post of President is the highest civilian post and it is a great honour to hold that post. It is, therefore, expected that the person who holds that respectable post should command respect from one and all and avoid to be at the heart of any controversy. So, the imminent election of Pranab Mukherjee as the President of India should be a matter of collective satisfaction for genuine politicians, including those opposed to the Congress. Mukherjee’s elevation would, in fact, be a celebration of a legitimate politician, his genius, commitment and capacity to excel in the face of dispiriting odds. Therefore, it is also the triumph of politics at a time when concentrated efforts are on to depoliticise our society and devalue our parliamentary democracy by projecting the entire political class as demons, solely responsible for all ills.