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'There was corporate pressure to have Pranab as Prez'

Last updated on: July 25, 2012 17:03 IST

'There was corporate pressure to have Pranab as Prez'

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Saisuresh Sivaswamy and Abhishek Mande in Mumbai

Can an active politician like Pranab Mukherjee ever be an apolitical President? Dilliwalla took questions from Rediff.com's Saisuresh Sivaswamy and Abhishek Mande.

The man who was once touted to be the next prime minister of India has now settled for a ceremonial post. Pranab Mukherjee, who takes over as the 13th President of India, will probably have a far more action-filled tenure than his predecessor, more especially if the 2014 elections throw up no clear winner.

However, Mukherjee is no APJ Abdul Kalam and he is certainly no Pratibha Patil either. The former Congress strongman has to this day been a very, very active politician, is clued in not just to Delhi politics but also holds a keen interest in his home state of West Bengal. So, what can the nation expect with Pranabda in Rashtrapati Bhavan?

Dilliwalla, who has his ears to the ground in matters political, provided some answers.

Dilliwala: The prime minister is possibly be wondering whether Pranab can stay out of politics once inside Rashtrapati Bhavan. The PM's former media advisor Harish Khare made his point in an article on Wednesday -- that Pranab must resist temptations.

That Khare should write such a piece, reflects concerns of the PM and is a pointer to Congress' concerns. Can Pranab adjust to a titular role? Yes and no, say those who know him.

 

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Image: The President Pranab Mukherjee signing the register at President's office at Rashtrapati Bhavan, on his arrival from Parliament House after the swearing-in ceremony in New Delhi
Photographs: Courtesy: PIB

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'Pranab will turn a constitutional watchdog'

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Is it even possible for Pranab to be apolitical at all?

Absolutely not! Pranab is a political animal. But he is politically realistic and not an adventurist, He won't do a Zail Singh. Yes, Pranab will turn a watchdog, a constitutional watchdog, I mean. He will watch the government closely.

He won't compromise on his standing, as he said in an interview. He learnt this from Indira Gandhi however he will try to leave a mark. His first speech as President, did have political overtones.

Pranab will certainly be an interactive, if an overtly activist president and will await his moment of glory after 2014 polls.

As a corollary is the presidency apolitical at all?

Dilliwala: R Venkataraman said Prez was like an emergency light, which automatically came on in a crisis and went off after it was over.

What role do you foresee him playing if there isn't a clear majority in 2014?

Pranab will have two options: follow what his predecessors did --invite the single largest party first to form govt. If it fails, then Pranab can look for a combine of parties that can cobble up a majority. Herein will lie his discretion and political play! Given his familiarity with functional details, Pranab can choose his options carefully and leave a mark.

He won't go out of his way to help Congress or Sonia, say his men.

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Image: President Pranab Mukherjee being congratulated by Dr Devisingh Ramsingh Shekhawat and the outgoing President, Pratibha Devisingh Patil at Rashtrapati Bhavan on his arrival, at Rashtrapati Bhavan, in New Delhi
Photographs: Courtesy: PIB

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'The PM must do without Pranab'

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Pranab may not have been Sonia's first choice as President, but isn't his nomination also a sign of paucity in Congress?

Dilliwala: You are right! Not just sign of paucity but also that it was helpness. As PM's aide Khare said today, "Pranab selected himself"!

Ex-aide Khare also wrote Pranab 'quarter backed' his campaign against heavy odds from his own party! For her part, Sonia too had no choice. She would have preferred Hamid Ansari or better still someone like Sushil Shinde, SM Krishna or Meira Kumar.

But there was corporate pressure too on Congress leaders. Sonia realised she did not have time as Mamata and Mulayam were playing truant too.

But why don't parties look outside their turf for talent, like NDA did in 2002?

Dilliwala: The Congress' funda is always clear since Indira Gandhi's time: the President must be 'loyal'.

It's a little like naming Yuvi, who wants to become India captain, as the team manager. Isn't it?

Dilliwala: Absolutely! Who is going to soften Pawar? Cabinet reshuffle is imperative but whom will Sonia consult? Nobody knows.

The real test for UPA begins now, to manage without Pranab's political and other skills. See how allies are already chafing.

Dilliwala: Very true! But Pranab was realistic enough to realise that he cannot become PM ever under Congress!

We will also know pradhan mantri saab kitne paani main hain... It is easy to blame Pranab for poor economy, let's see what happens now

Next few months hold a lot of answer. The PM must do without Pranab. Pranab must stop being a 24x7 politician!

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Image: President Shri Pranab Mukherjee inspecting the Guard of Honour after the swearing-in ceremony
Photographs: Courtesy: PIB

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'Pranab selected himself'

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Poor Rahul! Cast in an Obamaesque mold -- both expected to take charge in a changed world with shrunk footprint of power

Look at this way: why would she want to be different?! How does it serve her to have a different person? Her concern is only Rahul's future. Which is what bugs me most about Sonia Gandhi. She can do anything she wants, but still goes by old stereotypes.

Dilliwala Congress' funda is always clear since Indira Gandhi's time: The President must be 'loyal'

But really, why don't parties look outside their turf for talent -- like the NDA did in 2002?

Ex-aide Khare also wrote Pranab 'quarter backed' his campaign against heavy odds from his own party!

You are right! Not just sign of paucity but also that it was helpness. As PM's aide Khare said today, "Pranab selected himself"!

Unlike his father (Rajiv Gandhi) who had to plunge head-on after his mother (Indira) was killed, Rahul has been trying to be too careful when he must surge on.

Arasiyalaruvai If Rahul had a Manmohan he can rely on, something tells me he'd be happier playing Sonia?

In fact, that is what people like Digvijaya Singh are counting on, and hoping to be in PM's chair!


Image: President Pranab Mukherjee with the outgoing President Pratibha Devisingh Patil on his way to Rashtrapati Bhavan riding traditional 'Buggi' after the swearing-in ceremony
Photographs: Courtesy: PIB

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