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Mainstream, VOL L, No 24, June 2, 2012

Best Options for the Country and Congress

Friday 8 June 2012, by Badri Raina

This is the season for speculation, some serious-minded, some naughty. Which is to be expected.

The thoughts offered here are meant to be strictly in the first category.

To put the matter plainly, it is this writer’s considered view that whereas Pranab Mukerjee may richly deserve to be elevated to the grand office of President of the Republic, such a course would entail for the Congress party and for the country a fine opportunity wasted.

The slot where the country needs him and where the party ought to consider him is the post of the Prime Minister.

It is to be doubted that the Congress and country this day have another person with quite the general acceptability and command of the Constitution and statecraft that Pranab-babu has, and by common consent. To an extent that were he to be forthrightly projected as the party’s candidate for premiership, the Congress might indeed draw pretty close to an electoral majority come hustings in 2014. An eventuality that the Replublic can use, anti-Congress predilections notwithstanding.
This entails two things: that the party organi-sation let bygones be bygones, and cede to Pranab-babu his deserts in complete faith and conviction, duly issuing from the proven record of his services to the party and government. Secondly, this also entails that the thought of entrusting Rahul Gandhi with this onus be put off for now. There can be no question that he has demonstrated a tenacious capacity for focussed hard work and commitment of a high order, but is he, in terms of articulation and statecraft, or what must be incredibly challenging demands of liasing with contentious political diversity in the years to come, quite ready? One would have to say no. But working with Pranab-babu at the helm for the next term of office might be just the schooling he needs to mature into a non-controversial claimant. Charmingly, he is young enough to afford such grooming.

Who is to be the President?—you will ask. Listen to any television talk show, or a more sentient man or woman on the street, and you will hear that the man—no one is talking of a woman for now—ought to possess a persona that draws universal respect, should be astutely political without being partisan, should have a vision of the world that sidelines the petty or the gross, should command global adulation, and so forth.

Which makes me wonder why nobody is talking of the one Indian who fits the bill in every single respect more than any other Indian. Of course, you have my drift. The man I am thinking of has the name Amartya Sen. A philosopher king, not esoteric and removed, but steeped in a lifelong commitment to the right and proper, especially where it concerns the last Indian in the row. Give me a good argument as to why this is an idle thought. Or why the Sen/Pranab package I offer may be bettered.

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