Being in a democracy has its disadvantages -- the biggest of them being the perception that if a majority says something, that something must be correct.
The latest case in point relates to the election of A P J Abdul Kalam as India's eleventh President.
Ever since the news was posted on our web site, we have been flooded with angry mail, accusing us of being in the wrong, and telling us that Kalam is in fact the twelfth President. The supporting evidence cited by the readers who emailed (including some who told us that we were going to lose "thousands of readers" because of this) is that all other newspapers say Kalam is President number twelve.
Everyone saying so does not make it so.
Addressing reader concerns has been a priority for us at rediff -- this note is in that spirit.
This link is to the official site of the President of India:
The President of India
Do check the list -- the official list, please note -- and do a head count: you will find nine names in the list of past Presidents. And one name -- that of K R Narayanan -- listed as current President, which he is.
Kalam, thus, will become our eleventh President, on the day he takes office.
The mysterious 'twelfth' President is the late B D Jatti -- who served as acting President between February 11, 1977 and July 25, 1977.
This is why Jatti's name does not figure even in Rashtrapati Bhavan's official list of Indian Presidents -- he never was one.
And if the logic is that someone who has served as acting President should be counted, then Kalam would become India's 13th President -- Chief Justice Mohammad Hidayatullah served as acting President between July 20, 1969 and August 24, 1969. But Justice Hidayatullah's name, like that of Jatti, does not figure in the official list of Indian Presidents, for obvious reasons.
Simply put, there is a difference between someone who 'acts' as the President and someone who was 'elected' the President. Rashtrapati Bhavan does not recognise the former category as Presidents -- at rediff, we figure that when it comes to Presidents, Rashtrapati Bhavan would know what it is talking about, and we take our cues accordingly.
Incidentally, some readers have suggested that Dr Rajendra Prasad, who served as India's first President between January 26, 1950 and May 13, 1962, should be counted twice since he was elected twice. If that logic were to apply, Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru's name would need to be counted thrice in the list of Indian prime ministers, since he was India's first, second and third prime ministers.
Or more to the point, the office of President is an institution we share (albeit in different form) with that other democracy, the United States. Pertinent, therefore, to note that George W Bush is America's 43rd President -- which he would not be if there was multiple countings of the same name. Franklin Delano Roosevelt, for instance, was elected four times -- does that make him US Presidents number 32 to 35?
The 11th President of India: Complete Coverage
The Presidency: A Special Series
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