The dust has to some extent settled after all the confusion that prevailed over the election to the highest office in the country. I don't remember any Presidential election subjected to such extreme levels of politicization as we have been witnessing over the past few weeks. Or probably even if they had been, they weren't visible to the people as this one, thanks to the widespread media coverage.
To begin with, the very idea of the incumbent President continuing for the second term was opposed from the start. This was the foundation of the political drama. As I understand, there is no Constitutional provision which bars a current President to sit for a second term. That wasn't an issue even here. The UPA-Left combine simply didn't want to give Dr.Kalam a second term because the previous NDA regime had dismissed claims for a second term to the then president Dr. K.R.Narayanan. This was clear from the fact that even though Dr.Kalam was the most popular President with requests from all quarters to give him a second term, the ruling combine didn't even consider his name in the initial list of candidates. Worse still, the Left parties never ever backed the candidature of Kalam even for the first time. The Congress decided to field some of its "loyalists" to the post which found no favour with the Left. Next came the highly productive move. Pratibha Patil, a staunch Congressee, was termed as the consensus candidate. This announcement brought along with it a barrage of opinions on her candidature. That she isn't a popular leader was mouthed by many while the ruling front heaped praises on her service to the nation. The confusion compounded with the Third Front playing a clever move to support Dr.Kalam. This finally tuned out to be farcical as he never had the numbers to back him with the ruling parties clearly not in his favour. With Kalam initially showing willingness and later backing out, we have managed to drag even his name into the imbroglio. The drama almost coming to an end now, it just remains a fomality for Ms. Pratibha patil to go though the motions before she occupies the chair.
All these turn of events bring out some concerns about the Indian republic set up. Cannot the Presidential election be totally apolitical? Shouldn't the people's opinion be sought on who their President shoud be? Or a more valid concern would be - Does India really need the post of a President as it exists now? This seems valid as the President merely remains a ceremonial head of the country without any powers vested on him. He is supposed to "act according to the advice of the council of ministers", which seems ridiculous in today's context. Their selfish interests shouldn't be served in the garb of the President's acceptance just because he doesn't have a choice.We need to address some issues here.
1. Let the President be elected strictly from a non-political background, a person who is well learned, a scholar who is acceptable to everybody.
2. Increase the powers of the President from a mere puppet in the hands of the Council of Ministers to a mroe pro-active role.
3. Constant monitoring of the legislature should be bought under his purview with even powers to sack MPs if they fail to perform.
4. Allow the people to choose the President by way of a referendum.
This is a tall ask in the Indian context.But given the insignificant nature of of the post, Dr.Kalam brought in some refreshing ways that the President can function and
relieved the post of its dormant nature. He succeeded in reaching out to the people solely because he was above politics and that was enough for the people to accept him and his views. He is by far the most popular President that India has ever had. He remains an inspiration to one and all. It would be interesting to see if Ms.Pratibha Patil can fill in his shoes. Already caught in a couple of controversial statements, there are some tough times awaiting her now that there is bound to be comparison with Dr.Kalam. On the face of it, it does look that she isn't more of the 'reaching out to the people' kind of leader. We will have to wait and watch.