Indian scribes are compelled to pay ritual obeisance to PM’s “personal honesty and integrity”

Madhu Purnima Kishwar writes Honestly Speaking in Outlook: 

Dr Manmohan Singh cannot escape responsibility for appointing people with dubious credentials to occupy key positions of power—starting with the appointment of Pratibha Patil as the President of India.

Today, the Indian media—both print and television—is focusing on the recent corruption scandals involving the UPA Government with unusual zeal. However, I fail to understand why almost every commentator, every TV anchor, every editorial writer feels compelled to pay ritual obeisance to the “personal honesty and integrity” of Dr Manmohan Singh while dealing with the scandals emanating from his cabinet colleagues. They do so even when there is clear evidence that the Prime Minister was well aware of various shady deals, as in the case of Telecom scam, and that he did nothing to stop the brazen economic crimes indulged in by his ministerial colleagues over the last 6 years. 
…In recent weeks, some of our most respected columnists have been warning us that we should look at institutional reform rather than target individuals because it can lead to loss of faith in democratic institutions. But how do you retain faith in democratic institutions if powerful individuals use their office to systematically subvert the autonomy and credibility of institutions meant as watchdogs of democracy? The best of institutions take no time in becoming slavish instruments of partisan agendas if you plant subservient and heavily compromised individuals at their helm.

……..A PM who compromises national interest, as in Kashmir, just to indulge the personal fancy of the PM in waiting, a PM who looks the other way while his Cabinet colleagues brazenly loot public funds and get away with extorting thousands of crores by way of kickbacks, a PM who is widely perceived and lampooned as a “rubber stamp” does not merit being called “an honest man” or a “man of integrity” because integrity in his job demands putting national interest above partisan politics and personal loyalties. Integrity also involves taking full responsibility for all his acts of commission and omission which have earned UPA II the dubious distinction of being publicly named as the most corrupt and rudderless government in post independence India


Madhu Purnima Kishwar is Founding Editor, Manushi Journal, Founder, Manushi Sangathan–Citizens First Forum and Senior Fellow, Centre for the Study of Developing Societies.

 Read the full piece Honestly Speaking in Outlook
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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.