Friday, August 2, 2002, Chandigarh, India

National Capital Region--Delhi



Examining President’s role: can he help enhance quality of governance?

Hari Jaisingh deserves to be appreciated for his article “Examining the President’s role”. I am sure his frank views would be taken in the right spirit. The induction of Dr Abdul Kalam as President has, of course, proved to be a trend-setter. The worthy President has risen from a low profile to the highest position of Head of State.

Not going into how he looks, one thing that needs no proof is his total simplicity. He is a genius and known for his logic, scientific temper with a sense of complete devotion to the country. Let us all be optimistic for the betterment of our country.

I, as a proud citizen of India, must urge the President to deal with all destructive tendencies with a firm hand. In one of his speeches, he spoke of dreams changing into thoughts and thoughts to be converted into actions. The already existing misdeeds and malpractices are required to be contained to pave the way for progress and prosperity. The policy of confrontation is, however, not in the interest of the country looking at our past experiences.

In the light of the already eroded faith and confidence in bureaucrats and politicians, I believe the people of India still have a ray of hope in this new President of ours for all remedial actions to be taken on a priority basis. Let us all in one voice wish him a long, happy and healthy life for a series of operations urgently required to be taken up.



Between the lines: Is the President really a figure head only? Are all powers vested in the Prime Minister?

Just a plain reading of the Constitution would not provide a straight answer. But what is not provided expressly in the Constitution can be found if one reads between the lines.

We have a ready example of Mr T.N. Seshan, a former Chief Election Commissioner, who discovered several provisions and powers hidden in Article 324, which his predecessors had failed to see, and used them effectively to bring about sweeping reforms in the electoral system, much to the discomfiture of the politicians but heartily appreciated by the public.

So next time the President finds himself in a helpless situation, he may be advised to read between the lines. He is sure to find the very provision he is looking for.

Wg. Cdr C.L. SEHGAL (retd), Jalandhar

Electoral college: There is enough substance in Hari Jaisingh’s observation (July 26) that with the emerging political scenario in the country the President needs to be vested with more powers which calls for some major amendments to the Constitution. The 42nd amendment places him in a straitjacket obliging him to act only in accordance with the advice of the Council of Ministers. This amendment should be done away with and the President empowered to act on his own after consulting the Council of Ministers when a grave threat develops to national security. This proposal may be criticised as a serious dilution of the concept of parliamentary democracy as the President will not be answerable to Parliament for his actions, but the developing conditions in the country make such a change imperative.

To give greater legitimacy to the increased powers of the President, he should not be a nominee of a political party elected by a limited electoral college of Parliament and the state assemblies. Hitherto only an individual chosen by the Prime Minister has been getting elected as President. With the coalition at the Centre and states ruled by different parties, the old arrangement for the election of President may have to undergo a change. It is proposed that aspirants for the highest office in the country be distinguished citizens who are not nominees of any party as such (Luckily, this is what has happened in the election of the present President, Dr A.P.J. Abdul Kalam). In my opinion, the electoral college for the election of the President should be expanded to include all the elected local bodies like the zila parishads, municipal corporations and village panchayats.



A rubber stamp?: Whatever the opinion of critics about the office of President, a figurative head, a rubber stamp etc., there can be no doubt that many of our Presidents have asserted their Constitutional position in keeping the rulers in check. Today in an era of coalition politics, when corruption and criminalisation of politics have attained dangerous proportions and when the rulers and the bureaucracy are in league with each other for vested personal gains, the role of the President assumes all the more greater significance.

Our Constitution envisages upon the President to reflect the spiritual authority of the State and symbolise the socio-political ideals and economic aspirations of its people. Naturally one must be rooted in the cultural ethos and be above the narrow considerations of caste, creed and religion. He must have the courage of conviction so as not to bow before the parochial and sectarian interests of the ruling class.

While India’s Missile Man, Dr A.P.J. Kalam, is acclaimed for his clear vision of the future of India and his immediate concerns over cross-border terrorism, internal conflicts and economic backwardness, it may still be too early to conclude whether he can inspire the political class to come out of its dubious and shady narrow aspirations.

If the political leadership realises the rationale and sincerity of Dr Kalam’s efforts, he will surely lead the nation to uphold the dignity and honour of the Republic in the comity of nations.


Kalam vs Lincoln

Dr Abdul Kalam virtually shares with Abraham Lincoln the glorious paradigm of from-log-cabin-to-White House (Rashtrapati Bhavan). He makes us feel optimistic that his cerebral and visceral spirit, which flowered into fragrance during his years as a brilliant scientist, will stand by him with heightened synergy in the discharge of his constitutional duties.

The author has chosen a very apt analogy of marriage of temporal power of the government and the spiritual authority of the President, but the moot question is: who will be the bride and who will be bridegroom in this marriage?

R.C. KHANNA, Amritsar


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