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The race for deciding the contest for President of India: Is it important ?




In some time from now, there will be an election to a post that does not have too much power, but is seen as a very politically significant contest. Every expert in the country agrees that the post of the President of India does not have too much power and have exercised even less power. The role of a President such as Fakhruddin Ali Ahmed, who signed the proclamation of Emergency (in 1975) that gave incredible powers to Indira Gandhi and took India into a dark alley for the next 2 years was shameful. And we have had Presidents who did not really do much, except to do state visits to countries (where the experts would have also stated that the Indian President has so few powers that it is not really worth it to get into a major discussion over issues). And there have been Presidents such as Abdul Kalam who brought a huge amount of dignity into the office, and who is still remembered, which is something out of the ordinary for Indian Presidents.
After all, the powers of the President as so limited that even if the President declines to approve a Bill passed by Parliament, then they can just re-pass it and then he has no option other than to sign it. Again, the constitution also binds the President to be bound by the advice of the Council of Ministers, which means that the policy of the President is actually the policy of the Government of the day. No Group of Ministers is going to take kindly to a President trying anything independent; which also means that when there have been interventions in state politics through the Governor, it all happens in the name of the President but is actually directed by the Government of India. The only time that the President has real authority is in trying to select the Prime Minister and the winning party after a close election, but even that is illusory now since the numbers count for everything and there is no more independence in that regard.

So why is the election of the President considered so significant ? Well, it is considered significant in terms of it being the responsibility of the ruling party to get their candidate elected, and is seen as a big loss if the party is not able to swing it or has to negotiate some kind of agreement for the same. The most important example of this was during the time of Indira Gandhi in 1969, when she was struggling with the Syndicate for the leadership of the Congress Party and was able to her nominee VV Giri elected for the President, and the candidate put up by the Syndicate lost.
The last time that the election for the President was lost, the Congress managed to get a politically suitable candidate, where the candidate was a lady politician, who was from Maharashtra, and was very loyal to the family. However, even with all this, the Congress was forced to go in for a compromise since the Vice-Presidential candidate was a favorite of the Left parties. This election showed that the Congress did have a majority support within the political class of the country.
And now we come to the upcoming contest. With the recent electoral setbacks and the perception of a huge slowdown in governance, any problems that are seen in arranging support for a nominee of the Congress would be hugely embarrassing. Hence the Congress is in full battle gear to ensure that it has a respectable support for its candidate, and at current trends, seems to be well on its way to getting there. However, it is also to be kept in mind that its supporters realize the current weak position of the Congress and will extract their own pound of flesh. Mamta Banerjee for example is already laying down conditions that unless her interest waiver is agreed to, she would not be willing to confirm. Others such as the SP and BSP will also have their own conditions. The BJP jumped the gun by announcing a policy that was not supported by Nitish Kumar (another example of the distances between these 2 leading parties of the NDA) and had to backtrack. It now seems that the Congress will make it, but it will not have any positive impact on the fortunes of the ruling party.




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