At present, the most significant event on the political horizon of this country is the election of the 13th president. As a run-up to the presidential elections in July 2012, speculation and lobbying for different candidates have begun in right earnest.
The president as the head of the republic symbolises India; rather the nation is mirrored in his/her personae. Thus the first condition for any presidential candidate is that he/she should have a dignified personality that makes a distinct impression on the minds of all the people of this country and the rest of the world. The other attributes a head of State should have are that he/she should be well-versed with the culture of the country, should be a scholar of some standing and should be an erudite and articulate person. To be a person with a political background is certainly not a disqualification — a home-truth that is self-evident if one focuses on some of the past presidents of India.
A good grasp over administration at the highest political and constitutional level, to be in possession of consummate diplomatic skills by virtue of having represented the country in the international forums, are also highly desirable qualities in any presidential candidate. If a presidential aspirant has also distinguished himself as a philosopher, scientist, educationist, social worker or in some other sphere, it makes him/her still more suitable. Perhaps, the most important factor in the selection of the presidential candidate in the context of the Indian polity is that he/she should be secular.
If one goes by the track record of electing a president, one finds that mostly the soft option of elevating the vice-president as the president has been adopted; but then this is not a tradition that has given us the best of presidents. Moreover, a quick look at the past presidents of India reveals that apart from two or three who really stand out, the rest have been a rather ordinary lot. In fact, the bar for selecting the presidential candidate has been brought so low that several names that are floating around have made a mockery of the whole process.
A very valid question at this point is who should be the presidential candidate, who would be acceptable to all and should be unanimously elected. It would be no exaggeration to suggest that the person who is most qualified to be the president of India is Karan Singh. He is a philosopher, scholar, writer, has been the longest serving governor, a cabinet minister for almost a decade, a former ambassador to the US and as the head of the Indian Council for Cultural Relations, the cultural face of India. He also has unimpeachable secular credentials. It would be difficult to find a more distinguished person to head the republic.
By pitching for Singh’s candidature and electing him unanimously, the political parties would do a great service to the country. It is a fervent hope that the political parties do not fall prey once again to the temptation of electing an amenable candidate as the next president of India. For once after several decades, one hopes that the political parties will give India the president it deserves.
Jyoti Trehan is a former director general of police, Punjab
The views expressed by the author are personal