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President seeks say in celeb Rajya Sabha nominations

By Renu Mittal in New Delhi
August 08, 2009 23:33 IST
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It's the season of demands with even the highest in the land not immune from this virus, which has spread all across the political landscape.

The latest to join the demand list is none other than President Pratibha Patil. There will be seven vacancies in the Rajya Sabha by the end of August, with the President having to nominate these eminent personalities. The decision on who would be chosen is taken by the government of the day and the President merely approves the list.

Highly placed sources state that President Patil has two candidates whom she wants the government to accommodate in this list. While the names are not known, yet, a senior minister said it is unusual that the President should be taking up someone's case.

It is also learnt that the President's son is interested in contesting the forthcoming assembly elections from Maharashtra on a Congress ticket and becoming a minister if the Congress-Nationalist Congress Party alliance wins. The reading in sections of the government is that if the President's son is given a ticket, her desire to have two persons of her choice brought to the Rajya Sabha may be somewhat tempered. The President's spokesperson was unavailable for comment.

It is not new for close relatives of a person occupying a high constitutional position to have their own political ambitions. Chief Justice of India K G Balakrishnan's son-in-law contested the last assembly elections from Kerala on a Congress ticket but lost.
Sources in the government state that Pratibha Patil has been, reportedly, putting in a word and that too "quite forcibly" on a number of issues.
Her "interference" in the Padma  awards was a case in point where a person was given the award because he was recommended
by persons close to her.

One-and-a-half years into her presidentship, Pratibha Patil seems to be looking to build her image as a statesman as she will not be able to get another constitutional post after she demits office, having occupied the the highest office in the land. This view was strengthened when the President's secretary gave sound bytes publicly stating that it was she who mooted the idea of a loan waiver for farmers which was such a big hit throughout the country. No one in either the Congress or the government has either contradicted or endorsed this statement, fuelling further speculation.

Another leader who is active politically and in a demanding mood is the Trinamool Congress chief Mamta Banerjee. Out of the two seats in Parliament reserved for Anglo-Indians, who are nominated by the government, Mamta wants one for Derek O'Brien, the quiz master who has joined her party.

Mamta also wants a nomination in the presidential nominations for the renowned litterateur Mahasweta Devi, who has a huge following in rural West Bengal as she has done a great deal of work among the tribals, the poor and the downtrodden.

Known to be a deeply secular, straightforward person, leaders say that the choice of Mahasweta Devi could reap Mamta rich dividends because of her work and following.
The name of Sunil Gavaskar is also doing the rounds as a prospective nominee to the Rajya Sabha. With the Maharashtra assembly elections round the corner, Gavaskar would serve the dual purpose of sending a positive signal to the Maharashtrians who look upon the former cricket captain as an icon and would also fill the criteria of a sportsman nominee.
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Renu Mittal in New Delhi
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