|President Pranab Sworn In. Image: Economic Times|
President Pranab Mukherjee has taken office. As an Indian citizen, I am expected to respect the post of the President of India, the first citizen of the Republic. And why wouldn't I? The Commender in Chief of the Armed Forces of the mighty institution that a country is, naturally deserves respect. President Pranab has been chosen by the legislators who have, in turn, been chosen by the people of India. When I, as a citizen, have chosen my legislators, who have chosen the President, it turns out to be my own choice. Shouldn't the respect and regard be spontaneous?
Despite all the effort to be convinced of the grounds to respect the President, despite the expectations surrounding an average citizen to hold the post in high esteem, something seems skewed. I wonder why there is no spontaneity in the way I look upon the 13th President of India for inspiration. And I find that there could be many reasons why something seems to be out of place.
Mr Pranab Mukherjee's experience as a politician cannot be taken lightly, by any stretch of imagination. As a seasoned politician, Pranab has been a key player in the political landscape for decades, having served in ministerial capacity under different leaders over the years. But, when the question is that of the highest office - though the role is more of a figurehead than that involving actual leadership of the nation - the need is not for a politician but for a statesman.
So, the question is if President Pranab is a statesman of stature worthy of the post of the President of India. And, if the President is someone who can inspire young minds to unite under the institution of a Nation by his sheer presence and personal charisma.
The 2G spectrum scam, one of gigantic proportions, rocked the country last year. In what was known as the 2G note controversy, the note from the Prime Minister's Office was more of a document implicating the then Finance Minister, P Chidambaram, of his tacit approval of the way the 2G spectrum was auctioned off ,than anything else. And it is this 2G scam that led to the scapegoat called A Raja, the Telecom Minister, being arrested and jailed for months together, among others, before being released on bail.
The 2G note controversy was 'resolved', if the verb actually translates into how the ugly situation was handled, after a string of emergency meetings and clandestine discussions led to the trouble-shooting exercise of a joint statement by Pranab Mukherjee and P Chidambaram, stating all was well in the Government. Following the statement, Mr Chidambaram seemed to have patched up with Mr Pranab Mukherjee, with a terse response saying "I am happy with the statement made by my senior and distinguished colleague"
It is tough to believe, from the perspective of an average citizen that I am, that a scam that rocked the nation, which saw heads rolling, which threatened the very sustenance and survival of the Government, and which led to the uproar that translated into the movement led by Anna Hazare and his team, has fizzled out into nothingness in a year's span. Some of the influential names who were seen behind bars are now out in the society, on bail. Mr Chidambaram, who was literally living on the edge, with activists like Subramanian Swamy falling just short of going for the jugular, is back to work as usual. And Mr Pranab Mukherjee, who was at the centre of the 2G note issue, has been sworn in as the President of India.
Questions remain. The 2G scam is the mere functional part of the equation. The questions lie deeper, at the systemic level. There is ample proof, over the years, that the system called democracy can be held to ransom if you are powerful enough to reach the top echelons of the political and social circles. Fortunately, the positive aspect about democracy is that you wouldn't be held to account and penalised for criticising the system - if democracy is a farce, I could call it so.
But that doesn't make it fun to be part of a joke. It was never mentioned, in any of the books that taught me as I grew up, that Dynasty Politics was part of the democratic system of running a nation. Rabri Devi, wife of Lalu Prasad Yadav, would rank high in Dynasty Politics, when she had to morph from being a petite home maker into being the Chief Minister of a State, overnight - and she is all set to introduce her children into politics. But then, Rabri Devi is by no means the exception. Every corner of the society smacks of politics having turned into family business.
So, it's no wonder that Sonia Gandhi wields all the influence that she can in the Indian political arena. What would Sonia have been, had she not been wedded to Rajiv Gandhi - Son of Indira Gandhi - Daughter of Jawahar Lal Nehru, the first Prime Minister of India?
Well, there is no point asking hypothetical questions, when the reality is that she can manufacture Presidents and Prime Ministers. And Pranab Mukherjee is yet another manifestation of her absolute powers.
That brings me back to the original aspect of Pranab Mukherjee, the politician turned President, who was the insider to the 2G scam, who was party to some of the crucial details about the scam being pushed under the carpet, and who has been hand-picked by Sonia Gandhi, the King-maker of India, the largest democracy in the world. Dynasty politics has implications that go deeper than just the dynasties in question.
When I look back, I realise that there is much more to it than just a lack of spontaneous regard for the highest office in the Republic of India. There is much more to it than what Anna Hazare sees as things that ail the nation. It is not about scams, it is not about corruption, it is not about Dynasty Politics - it is about the system - a system where the few privileged can have their way and rise above the majority.
The kind of games people play depends on who the people are. When you have risen above the threshold, beyond the political atmosphere, you would no longer be under the cloud. You could manipulate what the satellites pick up and reflect the distorted image that you would want the people down below to see. And in a country with more than a billion people, you could easily wade through the few brains that raise uneasy questions. The rest are mere heads that have been conditioned to nod.
And yes, in other news, the London Olympics 2012 have kicked off in style.