Manipulations for Presidency
Pranab Mukherjee, till the other day the Union finance minister, may not believe in the bad omen attached to the number 13. He has been occupying house with the number 13. If he wins the battle for the highest constitutional post he would be the 13th President of India. His sangfroid on number 13 may all be justified on the basis that the number has brought him luck rather than misery as it is supposed to do by most people. He may, however, be putting on a brave face.
The numbers Pranabda and the United Progressive Alliance have totted up may all be real and overwhelmingly favouring him. His opponent Purno Agitok Sangma may still be prophetic in claiming that the next President of India would be he and not Pranabda. The former finance minister, for all his self-confidence of winning the race to the Raisina Hill purely on the numbers — remember that in 1969 Neelam Sanjiva Reddy, the official candidate of the ruling party lost by a hair breadth despite the numbers favouring him initially — may be entering into the Rashtrapati Bhavan with his left foot on the steep steps of the most elegant building in the capital.
There is grave doubt about the genuineness of the alleged signature that he has appended to his so-called resignation letter from the Indian Statistical Institute, as well as some other parts of the letter produced before the returning officer accepting that resignation by the institute. Some newspapers have done great public service by reproducing the signature in the nomination form and the one in the resignation letter. The two differ significantly; any common citizen could detect the difference at first sight itself.
The UPA has come up with the strange argument that the same person could sign differently on different occasions. If this argument can stand then it could only mean that the entire edifice of transactions in the country based on authenticity of one’s signature collapses. Or is this argument of the Congress and UPA a reflection of the scant regard it pays to the Constitution and the rule of law? Is it another way of the Congress’ arrogance of power?
By some convoluted logic the objection raised by the supporters of Sangma was rejected. In such a case, the matter would go either to the Election Commission of India or later form the basis of a legal challenge in the Supreme Court after the election as it happened — on a different basis — in the case of V V Giri.
Was it that the whole so-called resignation letter of the candidate from the institutes’s chairmanship was manipulated at the last moment and post facto letter was produced after Sangma made his charge about the candidate holding an office of profit as institute chairman? This looks more to be the case as those who saw the letter point out that the way Pranabda has addressed the president of the institute, M G K Menon and the latter’s line on the letter accepting the resignation appear to be in the same handwriting. If that is so, the collusion is wider and many heads should roll.
Of course, such manipulations are not unfamiliar to the ruling Congress. Just recall the 1969 presidential election. The Congress’ official candidate was defeated by the Congress’ own prime minister claiming the right to vote by conscience. That claim was barred by the same party in all subsequent presidential elections. What induced the en mass defection of Congress MPs from Andhra Pradesh in 1969 and vote against the official party candidate has not been excavated in all these decades. It couldn’t be their sudden response to their great conscience. For, it went to sleep afterwards when several scams rolled out of their party’s cupboard, including the Bofors gun deal.
Sometimes history has its own cruel revenge. It is now the same Congress’ big conscience to wake up and indict its own late chief minister in the same state of Andhra Pradesh, of misuse of power to amass wealth for his son. Of course the charge comes after the accused is dead. Even the fact that it is this leader who got the party back into power in the state after 10 long years in wilderness is forgotten.
Truly when the conscience wakes for the Congress, its revered leaders from Neelam Sanjiva Reddy to Y S Rajashekhara Reddy are dispensable. The same conscience goes back to sleep when a leader like NTR is elected to office of the chief minister with two thirds majority and the Congress works overnight to dethrone him. After YSR died in an air accident, his son Jagan Mohan Reddy, then Congress MP, probably thought the party’s rule of treating the political entity as a family property should be followed.
Jagan forgot that the rule was applicable only at the very top of his party and only selectively at any lower level. So the Congress has come down on him like a ton of bricks. However, the conscience could wake up elsewhere also and the people of Andhra Pradesh soon gave a slap in the face of the Congress in the recent set of 18 by-elections of which the Congress lost 16 to Jagan Mohan Reddy.
Coming back to Pranab Mukherjee, the leader who had got the UPA out from difficult situations as leader of the House in the Lok Sabha while the prime minister was not given a chance to be elected to that House, is the Congress elevating him to the presidency or condemning him even before his election to the highest constitutional office?
The finance ministry that he vacated to remain the candidate for the president’s post, is now handled by the prime minister himself. Meanwhile, all reports tell us that the one man who was causing the blockade in the flood of reforms was Pranab Mukherjee presiding at the North Block office of the finance ministry. In any case his men left there have been cut to size, the real power seems to have passed on to the duo of C Rangarajan and Montek Singh Ahluwalia. Kaushik Basu, whom Pranab enticed to leave Cornell University for an honoured cabin in North Block, is on the way out.
The news is planted that now you will no longer have the policy paralysis and it is all floods of reforms. The doubt arises whether the Congress is sending out the message that it was Pranabda who was blocking the reforms express and so the party has conveniently pushed him upstairs? Is that the verdict on the man who is selected for presidency and was till the other day the government’s chief trouble-shooter?
Balbir Punj is a BJP Member of Parliament. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org