The victor in today’s election will have to live up to the very high standards set by both Dr Kalam and outgoing President Pranab Mukherjee.
President Pranab Mukherjee is getting ready to vacate Rashtrapati Bhavan for his successor, who will move in next week. The new President’s election is due today in Parliament and the state Assemblies, but the issues faced by our new head of state and how these are tackled is of far greater import than the political and personal views of whoever steps into these majestic premises. The numbers are now stacked in favour of NDA candidate Ram Nath Kovind, the first presidential candidate with a RSS background, and ranged against him is Meira Kumar, the Congress’ choice, in a dalit-versus-dalit contest that gives it a certain caste edge, though India has had a dalit President earlier. It is somewhat reassuring that Mr Kovind has declared he has had no political affiliations since being named governor a few years back.
The last time the NDA was in a position to elect a President, it had chosen wisely, with the immensely popular A.P.J. Abdul Kalam going on to become our “People’s President”. He too faced ticklish issues like having to sign an Article 356 proclamation while abroad. Ms Kumar has said it was a battle of ideologies, and also called for a “conscience vote”, which lends itself to the question of whether ideology has much to do with conscience. The victor in today’s election will have to live up to the very high standards set by both Dr Kalam and outgoing President Pranab Mukherjee, who have proved themselves to be exemplars in upholding the Constitution.