It should have been a smooth passage for such an accomplished person. But it was not to be. And here we have to put the blame at the doorstep of the Congress party, the largest member of the ruling coalition. It must have come as a shock that the Trinamool Congress leader went out and spoke to the press even before Pranab Mukherjee's candidature had been announced. But then, this is par for the course with Mamatadi. But this brings into focus a larger issue, that of the management of political allies. The Congress, or for that matter the BJP, has to live with the fact that coalition politics has come to stay. But to put up a divided front on such an important issue as the candidate for president does not bode well for the Congress.
Mr Mukherjee is a well-deserving person for the post. He has held several portfolios, all of them with honour. So, it would have been appropriate for the Congress not to have suggested two candidates, or so Mamatadi would have us believe, and been firm on a name. But this seems to be the failing that UPA 2 has had to grapple with. No sooner had the Congress shown its appreciation and vice versa for the Samajwadi Party, its supremo seemed to suggest that he had a few names of his own for the top post. The way coalition politics has affected even such a serious matter as the presidential elections shows that it is not so much a coming together of several opinions, rather it is pointing towards a divisive political formation. We can well do without this. The race for Raisina Hill has been on for quite a while now. But, for the allies to have thrown in so many names does suggest that they are all pulling in different directions. This could happen if there were ideological differences, but this is not the case as far as the UPA allies go. Now that all the sound and fury is over, it is up to the Congress and its allies to see that their candidate gets a smooth ride to the top post.
Mr Mukherjee has been one of the finest ministers the Congress has had. He may have been a bit miffed with the grand old party in the past, but he has never let that get in the way of his functioning effectively in whatever portfolio he has been given. And surely, this wisdom will stand him in good stead if he makes the grade. The office of the president was in the news for not being in the news enough with the last incumbent. We do look forward to a president who will go beyond tending the roses in the Mughal Gardens of the most sought after address in India.