APJ Abdul Kalam (13.97 votes) is the consensus President of India

The ‘five desultory years’ of the Patil presidency have awakened demands for the 13th President of the republic to be a person of stature.

In some 10 weeks from now, India will elect its next President.

The corridors of power are abuzz with gossip and innuendo, and some hard speculation, as to who that person could be.

The India Today Group has launched a ‘Pick your President’ campaign to be run through the print, digital and TV medium.

Setting the stage, as it were, is a special issue of the India Today magazine kicked off by a letter from editor-in-chief Aroon Purie inviting public participation in the campaign, whose subtext is summed up in his hope ‘that we get a President who makes us proud’.

Purie observes:

The President may be bound by the advice of the Prime Minister and the council of ministers, ‘except while naming a Prime Minister’ yet there is a need for a person who is ‘able to retain some independence of opinion and be seen to be above partisan politics’ and therefore be, ‘a person of stature’. 

In the cover story, India Today editorial director M.J. Akbar has analysed the history of the presidency in the country – as a high office and a symbol.

Looking at the early years of the republic, and the two models of presidency offered by Rajendra Prasad and Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan, Akbar concludes that ‘a President’s power lies in moral authority, which demands the independence of a judge and sagacity of a wide-awake nationalist’.

Unfortunately, as he points out, a third category of Presidents soon emerged that devalued the high expectation of the highest office of the land.

He says:

The ‘five desultory years’ of the Patil presidency have awakened demands for the 13th President of the republic to be a person of stature who, he notes, could be an ‘overlap’ President, were the UPA to do badly in the 2014 general elections. There seems to be a congruence between some Congress allies and smaller opposition parties in pushing the idea of Union finance minister Pranab Mukherjee as the next President. And it is Sonia’s worry about the ‘overlap’ moment that seems to go against a Mukherjee candidacy. 

As Akbar bluntly points out,

‘Rahul’s future could depend on the decision the President will take.’ 

The story points to the dilemma that Mukherjee’s strong showing among UPA allies and even some opposition parties has created in the Congress party.

Such is the seeming inevitability of Mukherjee’s candidacy that the party veteran could even contemplate resignation if denied.