Sunday, June 17, 2012

The Curious Case of Indian President

My Dad loves  watching news. His idea of in-home entertainment is flipping between all 1001 news channels – English, Hindi, Regional – all the time he is at home.

There are some obvious fall-outs of this. The most important one being that I just cannot stand most of the news channels and my idea of watching news is just to catch the headlines. The endless post-mortems, the speeches and horror of horrors – the political debate mediated by an anchor – are not my cup of tea.

For past couple of weeks, the hottest topic on news channels is who is going to be India’s next President. Now for a post which is supposed to be apolitical, there is a lot of politics going on and the news channels are cashing in on it. All day long, we get minute by minute updates of what Sonia Gandhi has said, what Mamta Banerjee’s riposte is, what is Mulayam’s opinion. It is the great Indian political tamasha.

Inevitably, we have debates among political experts, politicians (theirs is more of a monologue nobody else is quite interested in) and news anchors trying to coax out of them the juiciest bits that can be milked through replays for at least 24 hours.

The post of President, if my memory of Civics serves me right, is supposed to be held by someone not in active politics and while she has limited powers, the First Citizen of the country can force major rethinks. A case in point if the tenure of APJ Abdul Kalaam, regarded by many (including yours truly) perhaps the best President we have ever had.

Regardless, if nothing else, I have always seen the President’s post as emblematic of dignity and poise, albeit with limited uses. The Presidential election in India is very different from USA, where the President holds all the power. But this time around, the entire process has been stripped of all grace and everything that is not crass – something which is quite the trademark of Indian politics these days. The taint of politics has never been more pronounced.

And where is the common man in this? Where are we? As a layperson, I am not sure that Pranab Mukherjee, whose tenure as Finance Minister, has seen one of the worst growth rates for the country is the right person for the post, like Sonia Gandhi insists. Some in India Inc. have taken it as a good sign, hoping that at least it would get rid of him and his financial policies. Mamta Banerjee thought that she had delivered a coup de grace when she named the PM as her choice, for the same reasons as India Inc. for cheering Mukherjee. And now her first choice is Kalam – the same Kalaam who all these politicos had dismissed when the topic of his second term had come up five years ago.

So, I think it should be understandable if most of us have least interest in who our next President is going to be? Unless, we enjoy political dramedy.

Until next time, ciao.