Presidential (s)election

My main agenda was for the heady teenagers to revere the President as a role model.

After the French presidential election, especially with Emmanuel Macron’s sensational life grabbing eyeballs, the Indian presidential election could not be far behind. Indeed, scheduled for the July 17, 2017, the election promises to have a nail-biting finish, leaving Indians in a tizzy at just who their next President would be.

My school-going neighbours wanted a quick tutorial to brush up their knowledge of this once-in-five-years event on the anvil. So, on a summer-scented evening in the holidays, I sat with my young neighbours. Nishi broke the ice with her enthusiastic comment, “Wouldn’t it be wonderful if the ever obliging Sushma Swaraj becomes President?”

Not to disappoint the boys, I said, “There are not only women candidates like Sushma Swaraj, Sumitra Mahajan and Draupadi Murmu, but worthy men contenders like veteran Murli Manohar Joshi, who is also in the fray. Not to forget our current President Pranab Mukherjee, should he be looking for a second innings, and Vice President Hamid Ansari who may be keenly looking forward to a promotion in the leadership hierarchy.”

To enable my tutorial session to hold water, I knew that I would have to explain the electoral process of proportionate representation by means of a single transferable vote. I explained as lucidly as possible the role of the elected representatives, the MPs and the MLAs in helping to elect the President.

However, my main agenda was for these heady teenagers to revere the President as the head of the state and as a model for unscrupulousness and great intellectual and leadership qualities.

Although I had to add a footnote that he does not have much real power and is said to be a namesake ‘rubber stamp,’ ‘figure head’ and ‘titular head.’

Looking at their unimpressed faces, I exclaimed enthusiastically, “But just look at our former President Dr APJ Abdul Kalam, also known as the ‘Missile Man’ and the ‘People’s President’ — could India have asked for more?”

Aakriti spoke up now: “We are living in a democracy; wouldn’t it benefit the country more if we had a President with real, actual powers? Otherwise, it’s a mockery of Abraham Lincoln’s definition of democracy being ‘a government of the people, by the people, and for the people.”

“More like ‘off the people, buy the people and far the people,” quipped Aakriti’s brother, Karthik, amidst guffaws. I intervened saying, “We should not misuse our freedom of speech and expression and we should necessarily not throw barbs or brickbats at the leaders or the political process, both of which are relatively successful and have given us good governance.”

Nishi pointed out, “But ma’am, even intellectual Supreme Court Judge V R Krishna Iyer, himself a former Presidential candidate, has said, ‘The President should not be a namesake ‘puppet,’ ‘parrot’ or ‘ventriloquist’.”

A young class IV neighbour piped in, “But I thought you said he shouldn’t be a namesake ‘rubber stamp’, ‘figure-head’, or ‘titular head’!” Suppressing a grin, Karthik said, “Ma’am, I think it’s time you call it a day.”

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