By Dr Cyriac Maprayil
(Dr Cyriac Maprayil, historian, author and the Executive Director of the V K Krishna Menon Institute, warmly welcomes the Congress Party’s decision to offer the Indian Presidency to former finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee)
India has had some outstanding Presidents. It has also had a few Presidents of whom it can be said did not live up to the expectations. But all Presidents were decent, honourable people who served the world’s largest democracy most conscientiously.
One of the most illustrious Presidents was Prof Sarvapalli Radhakrishnan, a world renowned academic and philosopher.
Radhakrishnan, a close friend of Jawaharlal Nehru, was also an educationalist who played a major role in the creation of the new education system that incorporated many of our ancient learning features while at the same time blending harmoniously with modern requirements. Today, India is one of the most scientifically, technologically and culturally advanced nations in the world, overwhelmingly the product of a visionary and foresighted educational system bequeathed to the nation by India’s first independent government. Like Nehru, Radhakrishnan was a socialist, both embracing the doctrine of non-alignment and secularism.
Pranab Mukherjee who grew up in Nehru era was greatly inspired by perhaps the most idealistic government in Indian history. From very early he championed socialism, non-alignment and India’s bold stand against colonial oppression. Today the fight against imperialism is virtually history but in Pranab’s youth it was a potent factor. India, too, had suffered the depredations of the vile creed of imperialism but thanks to the heroic resolve of the Indian people.
Mukherjee read widely – a habit that persists to this day – and acquired a good, all round education before he entered the political arena. Even in his early days as a worker for the Congress Party he firmly rejected the notion that politics was all about superficial agitation. He insisted that one must have a solid educational background which combined with an analytical mind is indispensable for political success.
That accounts for his unstoppable rise from his beginnings in West Bengal legislature to his very high positions successively holding the key portfolios including those of external affairs and finance in the Government. Pranab has always seen politics as an instrument to change the lives of his people and he is as passionate about this mission as was his former leader, Indira Gandhi.
His incisive political and economic analysis has won him many admirers from the media, his own party and even some members of the opposition. He is also highly regarded internationally, particularly governments in the U S, London, Berlin and Moscow. Dr Manmohan Singh, the Indian Prime Minister, himself a formidable economist thinks highly of Pranab Mukherjee.
Although integrity and incorruptibility are considered to be in short supply in Indian politics, Pranab with “his unblemished record in public life” for almost half a century has the cleanest hands in Indian politics. He dislikes controversy, prefers negotiations to confrontations and is one of the finest speakers in the Lok Sabha Some commentators in Britain and India believe that he is being offered the Presidency to deny him the post of Prime Minister for which he is also eminently qualified.
But never underestimate Pranab – he will not be just a glamorous Ceremonial Figurehead but with his sharp mind, his vast knowledge, his boundless energy and his strong commitment to making India fair, equitable and just, will be the most enlightened Head of State beneficial not just for India but the world as a whole.