The Left parties have decided to field the legendary Dr (Capt) Lakshmi Sehgal as the candidate for the post of President. It has been repeatedly made clear that the opposition of the candidature of Dr Abdul Kalam is nothing personal. His contribution in the field of science is both recognised and honoured by the whole country.
But the fact remains that he is the candidate of the BJP-led NDA. The Left is uncompromisingly opposed to the policies and programmes pursued by this combination. It is completely untenable to oppose the policies of a political formation and support its candidate for the post of the President.
Secondly, the President of India is the highest political authority of the country, Article 53(1) of the Constitution says: ‘‘the executive power of the union shall be vested in the President and shall be exercised by him ... in accordance with this Constitution,’’ Further, Article 53 (2) says: ‘‘The supreme command of the defence forces of the union shall be vested in the President’’. Clearly, therefore, the person occupying this office has to discharge political responsibilities of the highest order and function as the custodian of the Constitution, protecting and safeguarding the secular democratic character of the Republic. The Presidentship is not like an honour to be bestowed in return for achievements. For this, we have the national honours and Dr Kalam has been honoured with the highest, i.e. the Bharat Ratna.
The choice of the candidate, therefore, should based upon the ability to discharge these responsibilities. But the manner in which Dr Kalam came to be the BJP-led NDA’s candidate suggests other considerations.
In its effort to deny the incumbent President, Shri K R Narayanan, a second term, the ruling combine initially allowed an emerging consensus around the name of the Vice President. It then unilaterally jettisoned this consensus and proposed the name of P C Alexander.
When it saw the near complete unity of the opposition who was backing Narayanan, it panicked and put forward a candidate with the specific aim of dividing the opposition.
The ruling combine’s proposal of Dr Kalam suggests an additional agenda. By proposing a person of the minority community, it seeks to whitewash the State-sponsored carnage in Gujarat. At the same time, it also seeks to advance its concept of militant nationalism (read fascistic jingoism) by elevating the author of India’s missile programme as the supreme commander of the armed forces.
It is this agenda that the Left parties oppose. The President of India would always be called upon to safeguard the unity of the country from the activities of the communal forces. Till now, the country does not know Dr Kalam’s views on the genocide in Gujarat. There cannot be a consensus on this.
Published in TimesOfIndia