Peoples President

Evening of July 23, 2007, India's parliamentarians await arrival, perhaps for the last time, in the central hall of parliament of the outgoing President of the Republic Mr. A P J Abdul Kalam. They have gathered to give him a warm and affectionate send off. The show is telecast live and the commentator lauds multifaceted personality of Mr. Kalam. Upon his arrival Mr. Somnath Chatterjee, the Speaker of the lower house of parliament begins the proceedings by enumerating various achievements of illustrious Mr. Kalam and the praising continues throughout the ceremony. We all sit glued to our TV sets watching with serious attention and, in between, also thinking as to how the politicians hide their real intentions behind the strings of words they so cunningly craft for the occasion.

His actions and achievements first as an aeronautical engineer, a teacher and a rocket scientist and then as the constitutional head are indeed laudable and make us proud as a nation of achievers. A mere presence of Mr. Kalam as the first citizen of India filled many youngsters with hope and confidence. Common man felt great seeing him as President. His dream of seeing India a world power by 2020 is the most significant motivating factor for the dreaming Indian youngsters as well as the intelligentsia.

How come, then, the politicians in this country didn't find it appropriate to keep such a capable and accomplished man there for another term. Does he fall short of qualifications by not earning any new doctorate (we see lots of politicians earning degrees from a beeline of obliging universities) during his term? If displeasure shown by him in a couple of instances of constitutional impropriety committed by the union government, albeit under compulsions of coalition management, was the reason for Mr. Kalam not getting a second term then the portents are not good for the health of democracy in India. Seemingly the elected representatives and other politicians of the country relegated public interest to backstage viz a viz political convenience.

It is beyond doubt that of the two contestants for the top job neither could match Mr. Kalam in eminence and integrity. We have seen enough dirt fly, during campaigning, in the faces of both; winner and loser. By ignoring an accomplished and perfectly qualified person the peoples' representatives, in spirit, have acted in a manner inimical to the larger interest of democracy while in letter they might have done nothing wrong by sticking to the ideals of open competition and rules ‘of first past the post’.

Whatever the argument or reasoning, the fact is that something is missing somewhere in the present Indian democratic setup. Why can't we have the best people at the best places? And if at all compromises are to be made that ought to be always in the best interest of common man. But where does the common man stand today in India? Is the adage of ‘by the people, for the people’ changing to ‘by some, for the convenience of some’?

PS. July 25, 2007
He is demitting office Today. I salute him.