Monday, June 18, 2012

The Race to Raisina


At this day, At this time, At this point, Almost everybody wants to be the President!


As you step inside the beautiful courtyard, after having gone through numerous security checks, the 'Rashtrapati Bhavan' greets you in full glory. The massive central dome and the nuances of Lutyen's architecture, are too overbearing to take in at one glance. Nevertheless, as your eye quickly scans the outer building, you realize the enormity in its entirety. The red sand in the forecourt casts a deep-orange hue on the walls and quite instantly you are reminded of the true 'red', the blood, which might have flown on these very grounds, in an enslaved India. Quite literally, it did. Not many people are aware but the grounds of Raisina Hill have a murky history. To build this palatial building, hundreds of families, who had been living here for centuries, were made to vacate the area. Those who didn't were forcibly evicted and those who resisted were immediately killed. Ironically, two huge cannons still guard the entrance to the Rashtrapati Bhavan, as if issuing subtle threats to those who try to question its sanctity. Over the death, grief and sorrow of many was carved a remarkable four-floored feat which housed 360 rooms. Another irony at play. Had those who were brutally murdered been given one room each, 360 generations would have benefited. However, who cared? That is how the British functioned! It is quite unfortunate though, that we still function the same manner. For the world, we gained independence in 1947, yet, the 1947 of our mindsets is decades away.





There is no point gloating over the reputable history of the Indian Presidency. There have been momentous occasions and Presidents have risen up to them. At the same time historical wrongs have been committed, and Presidents have been complicit in those too. What is of relevance here is the way the Presidential office has been converted into a 'Tamasha', today. Almost everybody wants to be the President. If they can't get there, they want a President of their choice. Its quite surprising how the Indian political class is treating the constitutionally declared 'august office'- transforming it into a personal shoe store where each party is trying to place a shoe which fits them the best. In fact, the Presidential election 2012, has become a comedy of sorts. How else would you explain the contest between a seasoned politician, a simple scientist, a tribal leader and a controversial lawyer? Sounds right out of a Bollywood film? Well, it might as well turn out to be one!

The ferocity began with M & M conducting a joint press conference and making some self-acclaimed declarations. Both were be-fooling each other and both knew that, yet, both chose to believe they were not. This press conference created history in itself. It was for the very first time, that the names of prospective candidates were revealed even before the ruling coalition had formally announced them. Plus, including the name of the incumbent Prime Minister in the list of probables, was another first. Never before have such cheap gimmicks been played in regard to the Presidential and the Prime Ministerial office. Yet, 2012 saw the beginnings. The conference set in order a chain of events. The very next day, a silent Roshogulla was thrown at the violent Roshogulla. The violent one jumped, looked around for the Lucknawi Biryani it had aligned itself with, but later realized, that the Biryani had already merged with the Pasta. Quite a cuisine, I must say. Nonetheless, this was just one dish, cooking itself in cholesterol. Another side, another cuisine was turning on the gas.

The NDA, has an MBA in opposition. Oh, forgive me, I totally forgot what the acronym BJP stands for. Was it the 'Bickering Janta Party'? I guess they had the word 'Bharatiya' in there somewhere. Anyway, the indecision of the principal opposition on the Presidential Candidate has reached its peak. As per media reports, they are unable to find a suitable candidate to oppose the Bengali Roshogulla and thus are likely to either add more Ras to it, or bring in a Gulaabjamun to compete. Within its ranks, who shall be the Gulaabjamun remains quite uncertain. Would it be the Punjabi 'Cloud' or would it be the Kandhaar express, eh, Forgive me, Jaswant Singh? At the end, whoever it is, it would indeed be difficult for the NDA to gauge the numbers. Congress, on the other hand, has managed the numbers somehow. Now, that was expected. For a party that has been 'managing' Ms. Mamata Banerjee, who has consistently brandished a sword over its head, this was still an easy task. As if this confusion was not enough a few more names were added to the race. Mr. Kalam, a former President is being hailed from Bengal. Mr. Sangma, an NCP strongman(strangely a Congress ally), is being hailed from Meghalaya. And Mr. Jethmalani, the lawyer who defended Afzal Guru and Kanimozhi in court, is being hailed from his bottle of scotch. PS- I do hope he remembers what he said to the media after his hangover from last night has settled.

So, as the situation stands today, provided it doesn't change tomorrow, different runners have tied up their shoe laces to enter the shoe factory. Mr. Mukherjee has begun running from Bengal. He is expected to reach first. Mr. Sangma has begun running from Meghalaya. He would be taking a route via Odisha and Tamil Nadu. Mr. Kalam has yet not decided whether he would like to even start running or not. Mr. Jethmalani has begun running from the pub. And, you never know, maybe a dark horse has begun running from some dark stable too. The big question here is, why is such a hue and cry being raised about a symbolic head? Why are our representatives fighting over a white elephant? An active President can be a boon for the nation, yet, her powers are limited. The Parliament is supreme. So, why is it that those who have more power are consistently whining about a post which has more constraints than discretions? Don't we have better things to worry about? Things like the economy, poverty, hunger or unemployment? Or Maybe Not. Maybe the rot inside our political system has set in to the extent that each motion is considered to be a well calibrated move.

There was a time when being the President was a matter of pride. Today, it is a matter of chance. Campaigning for Kalam, Sangma, Jethmalani or anyone else would not make a difference now. The scale is clearly tilted in favor of Mr. Mukherjee. Let us restore the lost dignity of the office and quit character assassinations and baseless rumors. Let us shun those who wish to make a mockery of democracy, or else, we would end up creating a democratic morgue in this country. Let the best man prevail.

As a last word, I do hope everyone remembers there was a woman called Ms. Pratibha Patil, who may be saddened by the fact that no one thought of repeating her :p