It is as if the ruling political establishment has taken a collective decision to press `mute’. The plumbers too have overnight turned an efficient lot and there are no credible leaks from North or South Block on what’s on the Congress mind as far as India’s next president is concerned. Yes, the names of vice president Hamid Ansari and finance minister Pranab Mukherjee are doing the rounds but no one knows if there is a dark horse, a la Pratibha Patil in 2007, waiting in the stables somewhere.
Witness what Karunanidhi who met Sonia Gandhi’s emissary A K Antony yesterday in Chennai had to say.
Reporter to Karunanidhi : You met A K Antony yesterday. Did he give you any names on Presidential candidate?
Karunanidhi : Yes, he did give a few names but asked me not to tell you.
Reporter : Did you give Antony any names on your choice for President of India?
Karunanidhi : Yes I did but I told Antony not to tell you.
That explains why Antony, silent and smiling, zipped out of Chennai like a hare in a hurry.
Likewise in New Delhi, where Pranab Mukherjee exclaimed “Oh my goodness, oh my goodness” when asked about his chances of moving bag and baggage to Rashtrapati Bhavan. “Don’t indulge in any speculation”, he mildly admonished reporters, even as he must be promising to himself that there won’t be any rosgulla deficit for the same media crowd if he won the `Kaun banega Rashtrapati’ contest.
The only ones providing fodder for the media is usual suspect Laloo Prasad Yadav who favoured promoting Hamid Ansari. Not that Laloo has too many votes to be able to influence the Presidential poll. This was his usual I-dont-look-beyond-my-Muslim-constituency tactic and nothing more.
Another person who spoke without saying anything was the oozing-with-self-importance from head to toe Manish Tewari. What the Congress spokesperson said should be best read in his own words.
“The President of India is an extremely august office. This is not an office which should be brought into the realm of unnecessary speculation. While it is true that the term of the current President will be ending in July, it is also a fact that formally the process to chose the next President has not kicked off.”
But while the UPA is playing so cautiously, the BJP has jumped the gun. Its leadership has rejected both Ansari (saying he does not have stature) and Pranab (no Congress leader for the post), while giving a conditional nod to former president Kalam.
Meanwhile lest we forget, our hardworking President Patil is on her last foreign trip, this time to Seychelles and South Africa, for a good ten days. I look forward to reading about the paid holiday in President Patil’s autobiography.