An Eleven-and-a-half-point Manifesto for President Kalam
With A P J Abdul Kalam having smoothly rolled up to Raisina Hill from Rameswaram, every editor, columnist and social butterfly will soon be offering his two-bit on what the new Rashtrapati should (or shouldn't) do to protect and preserve the dignity of the high office.
Smart murukku that he is, the President will do what any smart murukku will do with such unsolicited advice: receive it with due dignity, send a short letter on the embossed letterhead so that the recipient feels he is the second most important person in the country, and say paityakaara!
The last thing a Bharat Ratna who has survived the snakepits of not one but three central government behemoths (ISRO, DRDO and BARC) and who has managed to be on the right side of not one but three kinds of prime ministers (Congress, Third Front, BJP) needs is gratuitous advice.
So, your columnist will not bore 'Major General Prithvi Raj' on how to add up to 272, deal with the goons, etc. Instead, here's a short eleven-and-a-half-point manifesto that's just up Kalam's alley. It will achieve what the country's first prime minister, Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, set out to do: namely, inculcate Scientific Temper in the masses.
Refuse to attend any function which starts at 10.23am: You began well by refusing Pramod Mahajan's invitation to pick an "auspicious time" for filing your nomination papers. Now that you are in, reject any invitation, official or private, that seeks your presence only when the organisers are convinced the stars above are in sync with the stars below.
Swear in the next ministry at a time and on a day of your choice: Yes, the next prime minister will come calling shortly. Tell him that the swearing-in will have to be done as you wish. Choose a time, day, and date that are generally considered "inauspicious". Friday the full moon 13th would be nice. Let the PM (and the world) know that the longevity or productivity of the government doesn't depend on all these factors.
Make it a habit to meet Murli Manohar Joshi during rahu kaalam. So what if the human resource minister is a firm believer in astrology? He is coming to your house; he should meet you on your terms, not his. Moreover, his personal beliefs should be his personal beliefs, not something he should inflict on the country. So meet Dr Joshi just when his pandits have told him not to.
Refuse to visit S M Krishna's home-office: The chief minister of India's alleged "hi-tech" state changed the entrance of his house upon coming to power to meet the demands of vaastu. Tell him you will meet him anywhere, anywhere but a place that is a temple to such officially sanctioned obscurantism. And tell that to any VIP who believes in vaastu. It's easy: Rashtrapati Bhavan library can give you a list.
Visit every "jinxed" place in the country: There are tens of cities and towns in the country which politicians, even if they are the representatives of the place, refuse to visit because they are afraid they will lose their seat. Make a trip to these places to show our neta-log that they lose their power not because of the wrath of the gods above, but the gods below: the voters.
Ask every kid you invite to Rashtrapati Bhavan to carry a cat: And encourage them to play with it in the corridors and leave it back when they leave. Let the cats cross the paths of everybody who visits your house -- politicians, bureaucrats, staff, everybody. Let them realise that good results are caused by good intent and good actions. Cats have nothing to do with it.
Refuse to visit any place of worship as President: You may be a believer in Islam or you may not. But don't, ever, visit the dargah at Ajmer Sharif, the Balaji Temple at Tirupati, the Golden Temple in Amritsar, in the next few months, in a manner as to suggest that it was only because of the magnanimity of the good lord that you managed to become Rashtrapati the way you did.
Decline all invites from godmen and assorted frauds: Now that you are where you are, the super-smooth operators will be falling over each other to invite you. Usually it will be to inaugurate a hospital or a college or some "social service" activity. Some might even offer honorary doctorates. Decline them all. They are calling you not because you are a scientist, but because your position will give them the respectability their activities are craving for.
Ask Bhairon Singh Shekhawat 'What's wrong with you?' True, he hasn't been sworn in vice-president yet. But that's only a formality, a matter of time. The moment he comes in, ask just what he had in mind when he presided over a yagna praying for rain in Rajasthan. If he says it works, ask him if he can pray for cool winds to blow through Delhi during summer. As a South Indian, you might need a bit of it.
Publicly taunt politicians and columnists and television producers who have added an 'a' to their names: Yes, we are talking about the Jayalalithas and/the Shobha Des and the Ekta Kapoors. Ask the first two, 'Amma, who are you kidding with this nonsense?' And ask the third, 'Are you seriously telling me that a serial whose title doesn't start with 'K' doesn't stand a chance of becoming a hit?'
Make '13' your official emblem: Some people write 'Om' on top of their letterheads. Some start with 'Sri'. Still others write 'Sai'. Let '13' be your signature line. Write it on top of your letterhead. On your first trip abroad, ask 13 journalists to accompany you. If you have to stay in a hotel, ask for Room 13. Have 13 chairs at the dinner table. 13, 13, 13. Rub it in....
And one final point: never make the mistake, as your secular predecessor did in 1999, of succumbing to Hindu Hysteria in congratulating the Indian cricket team on beating Pakistan unless it is the final of the World Cup.