What next for Mukherjee?
By now it is clear that the government will not be offering President Pranab Mukherjee a second term. It is also clear that the veteran politician is not quite ready to retire just yet. So then what are his options? According to a senior Opposition leader, there is a view fast gaining ground that why not back Pranab Mukherjee as the Opposition’s candidate for Prime Minister? It is not unconstitutuonal for a former President to be Prime Minister—for if you recall, Sonia Gandhi had reached out to ex President Shankar Dayal Sharma in 1991 after Rajiv Gandhi died and he was her first candidate of choice as PM. It was only after he refused that she settled on Narasimha Rao. And, unlike Nitish Kumar or Mamata Banerjee, it would be easy to arrive at a consensus on Mukherjee’s name; he certainly carries more gravitas than the two CMs. Sources also say that Sonia Gandhi would prefer Mukherjee over a second term for Narendra Modi and will overcome her earlier reservations against him. Of late, Mukherjee, too, has been reaching out to the Congress such as when he praised Indira Gandhi recently as the most “acceptable PM even today”. Well, it’s still too early to come to a decision, but the speculation is certainly gaining ground.
The Presidential Candidate
The government will be announcing its choice of Presidential candidate within the next two weeks. And it certainly won’t be any of the names doing the rounds. According to a source, there is pressure on Prime Minister Narendra Modi to choose a name from within the BJP or of a right- wing sympathiser. “This is the first time that the NDA has got an outright majority, so we don’t want him to go in for an Abdul Kalam type of candidate, like the A.B. Vajpayee government had to do because it didn’t have the numbers,” says a BJP leader. As for Vice President, that would probably be a tribal or an SC/ST to balance the choice of the President, as most of the BJP’s senior rung leaders are either Brahmins or Thakurs. So, watch this space.
Congress’ Epic Dilemma
The Congress is not at all reassured by Rahul Gandhi’s latest gaffe in Telangana where he attacked the Telangana Chief Minister K. Chandrasekhar Rao by asking him if the state was formed for only one family rule. Only Rahul Gandhi (and his speechwriter) missed the irony of that barb, coming from a member of the Nehru-Gandhi dynasty. To reassure his beleaguered colleagues, a Congress leader from Maharashtra has this solution to offer—look at our two great epics, the Ramayana and the Mahabharata for leadership models, he said. In the Ramayana, there is a pro-active King Rama, who leads from the front, goes and slays Ravana and rescues his wife. In the Mahabharata, there is Yudhishthira who is not very pro-active himself—there are hardly any stories of his feats on the battlefield—but he has an effective band of brothers who deliver under his leadership. The first model, according to the Congress leader, is the Modi model, while the latter is a model of leadership that Rahul should adopt. Like Yudhishthira, he should surround himself with a team of able leaders who will slay his political rivals, so to speak. Wonder if the bookshelves at 12, Tughlak Lane (residence of the Congress vice president) have a copy of the Mahabharata handy?