India needs new president, ′not a rubber stamp′ | Asia| An in-depth look at news from across the continent | DW | 17.07.2012
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India needs new president, 'not a rubber stamp'

India is about to get a new president. The country has a parliamentary government and the president does not have much power. However, many believe that the next holder of the post should not act as a rubber stamp.

The ruling United Progressive Alliance coalition has nominated Pranab Mukherjee, former Finance Minister of India as its candidate to be the country's 13th president.

On the opposition side, for the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) Purno Agitok Sangma, a former founder member of the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP).

Purno is a former speaker of Lok Sabha (House of the People) the lower house of the Indian parliament and the chief minister of Meghalaya, a north-east state of India.

Both nominees seemingly enjoy words of appreciation from those who consider them to be the right choices.

Akrita Reyar, group online news editor at Zee News Limited, writes favorably about Mukherjee in her blog. "The rather mild and arguably ablest troubleshooter in the Congress is known for his diplomatic and discreet answers on contentious chords."

Sangma has his share of brick bats and bouquets, but Economic Times columnist CL Manoj is among his fans.

"Sangma has a scam-free track record as a union minister," he says. "Adding to his profile is the fact that he is both a tribal and a Christian - the two categories that, so far, have not been represented at the President House."

The blame-game

Politics and controversy go hand in hand, and these presidential elections are no different. It started with a blame game in which Sangma accused Mukherjee of holding offices of profit. Under Indian electoral rules, candidates are not permitted to work for profit at the time of nomination.

The recent remark made by Sangma, that Rashtrapati Bhawan (President House) was being used as a dumping ground for "failed" former Finance Minister Mukherjee has stirred a controversial debate.

The chief minister of the states of Jammu and Kashmir, Omar Abdullah, wrote on the micro-blogging site twitter, "Note to Mr Sangma - you are contesting elections to the highest office in the land, would it hurt you to maintain a measure of decorum?"

Mukherjee didn't react much to these allegations leveled against him.

Pranab Mukherjee, presidential candidate of India's ruling alliance

Pranab Mukherjee presidential candidate of India's ruling alliance

Blogging about his views on the political blame game Prashant Pandey, executive director and CEO of Entertainment Network India Limited writes that the political drama is eclipsing the real issues.

"The real truth is that, while everyone in the country seems to be enjoying an interesting and intriguing ringside view of the political drama that is being enacted in New Delhi, it is really a sad moment for the country," Pandey writes.

Rules for president

Intertwined in various social issues, economic crisis and scams and scandals, the images and intentions of Indian politicians are now viewed more critically than ever. According to newspaper reports, current President of India Pratibha Patil's expense spending is under scrutiny. The controversies were about her post-retirement home in western city of Pune (she has recently decided to forgo this proposal) and two billion dollars spent on her foreign trips.

Her tenure had already been termed as that of a dormant president by many - with real political power vested in the prime minister. Rajdeep Sardesai, editor-in-chief of IBN18 Network, in his blog writes, "The Indian Constitution doesn't prescribe that a presidential appointment be determined by political subservience, which unfortunately has become more the norm than exception."

Sangma greets his supporters

PA Sangma has a scam-free track record

Economic Times columnist CL Manoj also writes in his blog that Mukherjee is a man who is determined to stand up for what he believes.

"It is precisely because Mukherjee is not made of ordinary stuff that he could, in a dignified manner, survive and rise in the Congress despite his refusal to be a career sycophant," he says.

Elaborating on questions about the position of president, Manu Joseph - editor of the Indian weekly news magazine Open - says in his blog: "India's constitution is ambiguous about how far the president can intervene with the government over some issues. It is like a subdued figure, who will sign where the elected government asks him/her to. It is referred as a ‘rubber stamp' politician, whom people no longer want."

The hope for a true leader of the nation still rests in many Indian hearts, which in true democratic sense should be ‘by the people, for the people and of the people'.

Author: Tanushree Sharma Sandhu
Editor: Richard Connor