Challenges await the 13th President
President-elect Pranab Mukherjee brings with him his profound political, administrative and parliamentary experience spanning over 50 years, his biggest challenge as the head of state could turn out to be 2014.
For that year will witness scheduled elections to Lok Sabha (if not held earlier) and apprehensions at present is that it may result in a hung and a hopelessly fractured Parliament and the President will be called upon to chose the next coalition to rule (unless there is a radical change in the fortunes of either Congress or BJP).
That could be the litmus test but then, Mukherjee, known to be a “Constitutionalist”, a stickler to rules and conventions, could go by the rule book. India has never elected a majority party government since 1989; and the former Presidents Shankar Dayal Sharma and K R Narayanan have made it easier by making some conventions such as calling the largest party and with pre-poll alliance to explore possibility of forming the government. Mukherjee – who became minister at Centre in 1973 and finance minister in 1982 - will have these precedents to fall back upon.
Many who know Mukherjee, who has won appreciation of practically every political party during his decades-old political innings is expected to vouch for an impartial conduct in the Rashtrapati Bhavan.
However, his immediate challenge could be to decide the remaining clemency petitions, the most important one being that of Afzal Guru, sentenced to death for terror attack on Parliament. Mercy petitions sent in by 10 prisoners will await Mukherjee’s call.
Mukherjee, who will be his own man, may strictly go by the rule book although on most occasions he has to go by the government’s decisions.
What Mukherjee brings to the office of president is the stature something that Patil lacked. He will also be first full-scale politician after R Venkataraman to occupy the Raisina Hill. In experience and stature, Mukherkjee is being compared to past presidents Rajendra Prasad, S Radhakrishnan, Zakir Hussain and Venkataraman.
It can be argued that unlike his predecessors including Patil, Mukherjee will try his best to move away from controversies.
Having kept his slate clean so far, the 77-year old Bengali may even take care to see that he will not take a large entourage on tours, something Patil could not resist. Although he has seen the world, Mukherjee, like Patil may not cut down on foreign tours, as a titular head is also called upon to embark on such visits to strengthen bilateral co-operation.