Choosing the next President

Both the ruling BJP and the Opposition parties are engaged in exercises to select the next President. The BJP has formed a three-member committee headed by party president Amit Shah to do this in consultation with the Opposition parties. The Opposition is yet to make its choice.  From the BJP camp several names are being talked about – or speculated upon: Draupadi Murmu, Sumitra Mahajan and Ram Naik. The first one is the current Governor of Jharkhand, the second the Speaker of the Lok Sabha and the third, the Governor of Uttar Pradesh. Among the prominent names being discussed in the Opposition camp are those of Meira Kumar, Gopal Krishna Gandhi and Sharad Pawar.
The ground reality is, however, that the BJP/NDA camp is already ahead of the Opposition in the preliminary calculation of votes in the Electoral College.  The total vote value of the electoral college is 10,98,882. Of this, the BJP/NDA has 5,37,614 votes, the combined Opposition 4,02,230 vote. ‘Undecided’ voters make up another 1,59,038. Among the last, several political parties seem to be in a mood to support the candidate sponsored by the BJP/NDA. But the much talked about, much-hyped question “who will be our next Rashtrapati” is actually of little practical import.
It should be borne in mind that whoever is eventually elected President, he or she will have to work, at least for the first two years of his/her tenure, during the BJP/NDA regime and will be constitutionally required to approve all the decisions of the Cabinet headed by Narendra Modi. Article 74 of the Constitution now reads: “There shall be a Council of Ministers with the Prime Minister at the head to aid and advise the president who, shall, in the exercise of his functions, act in accordance with such advice.” Formerly, the ‘shall’ was not there. Indira Gandhi amended this article during Emergency to reduce the President to be the rubber stamp of the Union Cabinet. 
No subsequent Union Governments including the present one commanding an absolute majority in the Lok Sabha, chose to re-amend this Article and restore to the President the power of saying ‘No’ to any decision of the Cabinet. So the President continues to be the rubber stamp of the ruling party. He can ‘return’ to the Union Cabinet any of its decision for reconsideration. But the second time he has to sign on the dotted all lines. Or else, resign. There is no third option for him.

Thursday, 15 June, 2017