Thursday, 14 June 2007

Madam Prez: First woman president in India?

Pratibha Patil may become the first woman president of India. Many may term it as a reward for her loyalty to Nehru-Gandhi family or the politics of symbolism but the fact is that in the last six decades we never had a female President.

Vinod Mehta terms it a master stroke. She is a woman that makes it difficult for BJP to oppose. She is also a Shekhawati and either she or Bhairon Singh Shekhawat, would take oath as India's next President on June 25, the day APJ Abdul Kalam leaves the Raisina Hills.

Is it tokenism? It could be but let's face it. In Indian politics bigwigs often lose out and non-controversial 'dark horses' emerge as winners. Just like Inder Kumar Gujaral and HD Deve Gowda, who just became Prime Ministers because nobody had anything against them.

When we can have a President like Fakhruddin Ali Ahmed (signed the order promulgating emergency) who was a mere rubber stamp and Giani Zail Singh, who was also ready to take up broom for Indira Gandhi, at least Pratibha looks a far better option. May be she will prove to be different.

The 72-year-old is a lawyer by profession and was deputy chairperson of Rajya Sabha in the late eighties. A Marathi by birth, she married Devi Singh Ram Singh Shekhawat, an educationist. She was a table tennis player at college level. Pratibha Patil has set up working women's hostels in Mumbai and Delhi, apart from engineering college for rural youths.

So we can't say that she is just anybody and has also shown concern towards the common man. As Governor of Rajasthan, she had refused to sign the controversial Freedom of Religion (Conversion) Bill.

It is common knowledge that for anybody who would step into the Rashtrapati Bhawan after Avul Pakir Jainulabideen Kalam, it is going to be a daunting task to meet the expectations. After all, Kalam has not only restored the dignity of President' s house but also emerged as a role model for millions especially kids in an era when the nation was frustrated with its leaders.

Pratibha, who is the Governor of Rajasthan, is no novice. She has the credentials and may be she will prove her critics wrong. Hindustaniat doesn't support the UPA candidate. Of course, we do support Pratibha Patil as India's next president. Is there any difference. Yes, there is!

We had a woman Prime Minister in Indira Gandhi though we had no President in 60 years. And we may have a woman president also within the next ten days. And United States is yet to have a woman head of state ever since the post was established way back in 1789!

There have been selections merely on the basis of religion (Sikh, Muslim) and also caste (Dalit/OBC) for the top posts in this country. Who has the moral gumption now to counter her candidature that she is just being pushed because of her gender?

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