Presidential Election 2017: The secrecy over the respective Presidential candidates of the Opposition and NDA camps has made the race to Raisina Hill exciting. Even as the President of India doesn’t exercise much executive powers, the man or the woman occupying the Raisina Hill in New Delhi has a lot of sway over public perception both in the country as well as outside. The President commands respect from all politicians as well as citizens. The respect, however, comes naturally if he or she is an inspirational figure. Take the case of former President APJ Abdul Kalam, whose scientific achievements and humility was respected all over the world. He was popular among the children and youth and used the Presidential office to inspire a new generation of the country. Probably after decades, people looked up to the President of India as a source of inspiration during Kalam’s tenure.
As PM Narendra Modi and his colleagues jostle to pick the right candidate to replace President Pranab Mukherjee, who will retire in July, several probable names have come up for consideration in the NDA camp. The list includes names like BJP leader and External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj, Lok Sabha Speaker Sumitra Mahajan, Jharkhand Governor Draupadi Murmu, former deputy Lok Sabha Speaker Kariya Munda,Union Social Justice Minister Thawar Chand Gehlot and ‘Metro Man’ E Sreedharan. Earlier, names of senior BJP leaders LK Advani and Murli Manohar Joshi were also reported to be under consideration. However, with the opening of Babri conspiracy case against them, it is highly unlikely that PM Modi would risk proposing their names for the Presidential Election 2017.
Indian Today has reported sources as saying that there is a “strong possibility” of the ‘Metro Man’ being nominated as the NDA Presidential candidate. Except Sreedharan, the rest of the names among the probable candidates are from political background.
Sreedharan has, however, denied that the Centre has talked to him about the possibility of him being selected as the NDA candidate for the Presidential election. “No reality in it (reports of him being considered for the post of President). No discussions took place. Don’t long for it,” Sreedharan was quoted as saying by ANI.
Despite denial from the ‘Metro Man’, he is still a better candidate than the others being considered for India’s top job. The Kalam example shows that a President from a background other than politics can help build ‘Brand India’ better than the rest. Moreover, at a time when the Centre is trying to change the image of India into a pro-innovation country, free from political and bureaucratic hurdles with schemes like Digital India, Make in India, Start-up India etc, a President like Sreedharan would help PM Modi in many ways. There are at least four reasons for this:
1. Sreedharan, who is famous for putting India successfully on the metro map of the world by leading the Delhi Metro project and now the to-be-launched Kochi Metro, is also known as a no-nonsense man of action. His stellar achievements have made him popular across the country and he would naturally command respect across Indian and the world.
2. Politically, Sreedharan comes from Kerala. With BJP looking to bolster its presence in southern states, the choice of Sreedharan would send a good message to people. However, Presidential poll is not meant for scoring political goals.
3. The post of President is mostly ceremonial. With the benefit of hindsight, we know that inspirational figures, even while seated on ceremonial positions, can do more in changing public perceptions about things than political figures. Anyway, in India we respect our scientists and engineers more than the politicians.
4. By not opting for a political candidate for the top post of the country, PM Modi can boost his image among voters opposed to the BJP. The saffron party was instrumental in bringing Kalam to the Raisina Hill and earned goodwill of people across the country for doing that. It can do so again by picking Sreedharan, or any other figure like him from a non-political background.