What will the 13th President of the Republic of India, Pranab Mukherjee, be called upon to do? He is unlikely to be a mere rubber stamp that the recent Presidents were reduced to. Instead he will be politically active, truly act as the head of the government and functionally effective. Some of the following could be on his table:-
- The role of the President under the constitution of India. The lingering question whether the President is more powerful or the Prime Minister, will need to be decided during the coming years. This question was raised even during Nehru’s time and the interpretation that the President shall be bound by the “advice” of the cabinet, is questionable. The “advice” of the cabinet cannot be a mandate for the President. The Constitution has invested the President with powers in national exigencies and “otherwise” also to take independent decisions in national interest. The federal structure of the constitution can be converted into unitary in real emergencies. If the failure of the political parties creates unimagined situations, the country would look only to the President for solutions. That is the reason, his decisions are not justiciable. The President is kept under check by the impeachment procedure. Since elections to the Lok Sabha are due in 2014, a lot of political avalanches, tornados, volcanos and whirlpools will cause enough work for the politician & President Pranab Mukherjee.
- How much will he be bound by the “aid & advice” of the Cabinet? He will be confronted with choices many a times which he may not find acceptable. He can effectively deal with dissent in such matters without returning the papers for reconsideration of the cabinet. He is experienced enough to deal with a cabinet that really is no more a “collective entity” but a mere “ individual entity”. Cabinet ministers say something in the cabinet while taking decisions on behalf of the government but come out with public statements opposing the decisions. They try to escape under the subterfuge of it being their personal views. Even in such cases the Party to which the minister belongs may have yet another view. Pranab Mukherjee might be repeatedly called upon to deal with such tricky situations.
- The general apprehension is that the days of the national parties are over. The regional parties are going to occupy the centre stage. It means a long era of coalition politics and coalition governments. The coalition politics of the past few years has revealed its ugly face. It is less of a coalition and more of continuing collision. The coming years will flood the President of India with many such collisions, especially at the centre, because the very stability of the government will be threatened frequently. Besides, law & order will suffer, if the ghastly crimes throughout India in the recent months are any indication.
- The run up to election 2014 will see renewed attempts at poaching and hijacking , in particular of the national parties. The much sought after and desirable object is the Congress Party. The grip of the Nehru Gandhi dynasty over the party is likely to be loosened in the coming years. The party hardly can boast of a respectable leader of national stature. Pranab moves to the Rashtrapati Bhavan. Other public faces evoke more derision than affection for the party. Any restructuring or de-structuring of the Congress Party will trigger political storms affecting the government. The President will need to step in. At times it may not be exactly as advised by the cabinet.
- The Opposition is showing signs of failing health as well. If the people display a casual attitude and give a fractured verdict again, the country will see less of governance and more of Presidential execution. The President will not be able to intervene on a day to day basis, but people will have no other alternative than petition him. The daily torture of corruption, failure of governance and high prices is making people violent.
- The President has to personally pass orders in many critical areas of legislation, governance and administration of justice. This President might take decisions after applying his mind. Conflict with other organs of the State may be resolved by the President, who exercises absolute authority under the constitution of India, which he has to protect, preserve and strengthen.