The elections for the 12th president of the republic will be remembered for a long time to come for several reasons. It is the first that has propelled a woman to Raisina Hill and it is also the first that has seen such a bitter and acrimonious battle between the contestants. Until now, the presidential election has been marked either by consensus or by subtle campaigning. This poll was no-holds barred with the rival camps engaged in a slugfest seen more commonly in street-level politics.
Now that the dust has settled and Pratibha Patil is all set to move into the elegant confines of the residence of India’s last viceroy, all eyes will be on how she will conduct the affairs of the august office. To her credit, she has not joined issue on any of the charges slung at her by the Opposition. Now, she will require all the experience acquired during her 45-year-long tenure in public life to carry out her constitutional duties in the minefield that’s coalition politics. For a while, she will be under intense scrutiny. But despite the fact that passions ran so high after her candidature was announced, it is important that the political parties that had opposed her so vehemently now put aside their reservations and allow her to function effectively.
We have long lamented that politics has crept into even institutions that were considered above such things. The office of the president is one such. It would be a shame, more so in the 60th year of the republic, that the president’s office is dragged into the hurly-burly of everyday politics. This is the time that India should make a new beginning as it emerges as a key player on the global stage. So far, Ms Patil has expressed the appropriate sentiment that she favours inclusive growth. No one can have any quarrel with that. Leader of the opposition in the Lok Sabha, L.K. Advani, is on record saying that the battle against the choice of Ms Patil will be a long haul. Given Mr Advani’s long years in public life and his advocacy of ethics and morality in politics, we are sure that he said several of these things in the heat of battle. A responsible opposition is expected to offer all support to the head of State in the full confidence that the Constitution provides enough checks and balances to maintain the democratic equilibrium.