Headless Hunch – Why Pranab Mukherjee will not be President of India in 2012

The highest constitutional post in Republic of India is up for grabs when current president, Smt. Pratibha Devisingh Patil’s term ends in July 24, 2012.  However, with complex election process dominated by political parties and no say of the citizens of India, its almost certain that President elections are nothing more than ‘Show of Strengths’ for political party.  With each political party will be aiming it as opportunity to show its strength ahead of crucial General Election 2014.

Recently Congress indirectly roped in name of Pranab Mukerjee, the current finance minister for the top post, but I only see that as superb eye-wash for the run-up to election.  With approximately 2 months to elections, this is the best foot forward from Congress to direct all the opposition and media in ‘guess who’ mode.  I have strong logic to believe that Pranab da would never be candidate for the president’s post just because he is too valuable for the Congress party to be sacrificed for the rubber stamp post.

Pranab da, if nominated for the president post, Congress will loose an excellent, relatively corruption free, clean face from its government, they would not want that in this nick of time, when they are perceived as most corrupt government in history of India.  Secondly, he has been an extremely good negotiator for the party, whether collation politics or be it civil society negotiation, he did his job very well. Thirdly, I would not be surprised if from the 2014 General Election, strategy perspective, Dr. Manmohan Singh steps down in 2013 to make way for Rahul Gandhi (read young leadership), Congress would definitely need Pranab da to hand hold Rahul Gandhi.

Yes Congress definitely needs a Congress friendly president, as it needs some tough bills and decisions to be considered by president in their favor to ensure they have good chance to contest 2014 General Elections.  But for that I believe, Pranab da would be too costly to trade-off.  Alternately, Congress can identify another Pratibha Devisingh Patil at the last moment and leave opposition (and probably hostile coalition partners) stumped.  Pranab’s name can thus work as excellent eye-wash.

Then comes the next big question, who will be the candidate for the post of President of India?  Well answer definitely lies in future, but couple of political hunches would be wonderful to analyze.

My best hunch is that Congress will go with current Vice-President, Hamid Ansari, as he would be perfect rubber stamp for Congress. He would get support from most of coalition partners, barring Mulaym Singh Yadav (by the way he is not official coalition partner of UPA).  Again, BJP can agree to Hamid Ansari, on condition they get say in Vice-President post. It’s a good deal for Congress as this will remove the trading power from hands of Mamta. From BJP point of view, I believe with Nitin Gadhkari, getting unprecedented second term as BJP president, L K Advani would not be too comfortable (remember in NDA regime, he didn’t got second term as BJP President).  Again, there are bleak chances that L K Advani might contest 2014 General Elections (he might field his family member from Gandhinagar seat) and thus position of VP would be a great gift retirement gift for him.  L K Advani might also accept this solution as he knows; even if BJP wins in 2014 there is bleak chance that he would be running for the top post of PM and also being VP he can influence long pending decisions on Babri Masjid Demolition case.

My second best hunch is very similar to the first one, with an only change that we might see some Muslim or Schedule Caste/Tribe man (very specific man, not woman) probably acceptable to Mamta Banerjee and Mulayam Singh Yadav.  Congress may even get support of Mayawati on this (remember CBI inquiries can come handy here for Congress).  If this happens, BJP support might not be required and perhaps we can see VP post going to Mamta or MSY’s aide.

My third hunch would be surprising but practically possible. SP leader, MSY might go out blazing guns aiming Presidential post for him.  With UP being governed by his Son, things are pretty smooth for MSY and he might want to take up this post as retirement option.  He can be in control of Mayawati’s BSP (by arm twisting ruling party as president) and can secure second term for his son in UP.  However, for this, he needs to cut a great deal with Congress and Mamta, b’coz either of them would not like to see him individually scaling to such heights.  Left would definitely support this move while BJP in all its wisdom has to oppose this deal.

As my last hunch, again too impractical, we would get a neutral person, probably fielded by Congress, and supported by smaller parties and BJP not fielding any opposing candidate.  This is very unlikely, giving the situation that BJP is ethically obliged to oppose every move of Congress to survive.  Also, Congress finding such candidate will only hurt them more rather then helping them out.

As the time passes by, this race is going to get hot and interesting.  But at the end, whatever the political game is played, post July 25, 2012, I would be interested, just like rest of 120 billion Indians, would our politicians rise to occasion to give us a President which we would wiling respect or it will be another rubber stamp like Pratibha Patil.