Grandma's Tales

May 6, 2007

Why not a woman President for India?

Filed under: Games People Play,Government,Society — Geeta Padmanabhan @ 10:02 pm

Ironies never end, do they? We pass bills restricting night shifts for women, effectively asking them to go home at a”decent” hour and stay put. Then we glibly talk of nominating a woman for the post of President of the Republic. Ha!
Mr. AP Bardhan, leader, CPI is all for a woman’s name in the list of probables. “We suggested Lakshmi Sehgal (of Netaji’s Azad Hind Fauz fame) ‘s name last time,” he said, answering Karan Thapar’s question in “Devil’s Advocate”. Bardhan wouldn’t mention a name [“hell hath no fury like a woman scorned”] but said, “There are many illustrious women. We’ll be happy to support a suitable one for the Prez’s post.”
“Why not Sudha Murthy?” I said, watching the programme. “She’s President of Infosys Foundation, she has vast experience running an organisation. She is well-read, is a writer, has a tech background, understands business and is a charming speaker. She has this simple, next-door aunty image that all of us can relate to.” I paused for breath.
“I would vote for Shabana Azmi,” said my husband surprising me totally. “It’s time Bollywood was represented by someone at the highest level. Movies are our biggest export. Bollywood movies gross millions of dollars. In fact, Bollywood movies are now made exclusively for the starving-for-home diaspora across the world. Kabhi Kushi Kabhi Gham is a good example. Half the world hums our film songs, starting with “Mera jhootha hai Japani”. The other half is of course watching the films. Bollywood dance is a rage in the west. Film star for Prez! A great idea!”
“Good lord,” I said. “Is that why you’d support Azmi’s Presidency?”
“Oh, no,” he said. “Azmi qualifies because of her talents. She is well educated and is extremely articulate. She is an activist, cares for the poor and displaced. Above all, she is a moderate. She will keep the Imams of this country in check.”
Right. Do you have a favourite woman for Prez?



  1. Your post got me thinking. Surprisingly although a lot of names crossed my mind, I couldn’t think of anyone well-rounded enough. Is it that exceptional Indian women prefer to be achievers behind the public glare unlike during the struggle for independence? or is it that the fields of achievement are much diversified now unlike the focus of that struggle?
    But yes, it is time India has a woman President!

    Comment by Shreyasi — May 7, 2007 @ 8:23 am | Reply

  2. Hi Shreyasi, your questions are bang on target. Yes, it’s time we had a woman Prez. Keep looking around, I’m sure there are a great lot of them waiting to be nominated. Think what they will bring to the Rashtrapathi Bhavan. BTW, what’s feminine for Rashtrapathi? Or is that a common name?

    Comment by Geeta Padmanabhan — May 7, 2007 @ 6:43 pm | Reply

  3. India’s first woman President: Rashtrapatni!

    Comment by Rani — May 7, 2007 @ 7:05 pm | Reply

  4. Hi Rani, Hahahahaha!

    Comment by Geeta Padmanabhan — May 7, 2007 @ 8:46 pm | Reply

  5. I got inspired by your post and this is what happened!

    Comment by Shreyasi — May 8, 2007 @ 6:59 pm | Reply

  6. Hi Shreyasi, why don’t you link your post here?

    Comment by Geeta Padmanabhan — May 8, 2007 @ 8:48 pm | Reply

  7. I dont know anyone more active than Dr.Kalam but President in India just little more than show piece. female or male or gay, any religion/caste/region, it just political statement.. nothing more.

    I think, its high time they should improvement president role and allow people(election) to elect president (like in france.. and like the latest turkey changes).

    Comment by yuva — May 9, 2007 @ 2:18 pm | Reply

  8. Good idea, yuva. We have to find out why our contstitutional fathers went for an indirectly elected President with limited powers.

    Comment by Geeta Padmanabhan — May 9, 2007 @ 9:12 pm | Reply

  9. The bi-cameral parliamentary system in India is sort of modelled on the one in the UK. The lower house is elected, the upper house largely nominated. For more on that, I recommend Walter Bagehot’s The English Constitution which also distinguishes between the efficient and the dignified elements. In the UK, the Queen is that dignified element, in India, the President is. The efficient is made of the elected representatives who legislate and are responsible for the executive, which gets its work done through the civil service, which is supposed to be politically neutral and expected to keep the country ticking over during an interregnum of any sort. The Queen and the President are also supposed to be politically neutral, although the Queen comes about to be the regent through an accident of birth whereas the President is nominated. I do not recall any egregious abuse of the nomination process except when Indira Gandhi put Zail Singh in office… Most Presidents of India have left a legacy that makes it difficult for any random person to match up to.

    The direct election of the President in France does not mean he has more power than the PM, whom he (so far, only he) nominates, and who must reflect the majority of elected representatives, in order that the legislature can function effectively.

    PS: Yuva, you are confusing sex with sexuality through your expression ‘female or male or gay’ which seems to suggest they are sort of comparable entities.

    Comment by Shefaly — May 9, 2007 @ 10:40 pm | Reply

  10. Hi, I think yuva’s contention is the President of India doesn’t have any real powers and that his is a largely decorative office. Well, that’s not strictly true. A reading of the constitution of India will tell us why we need a President and what his constitutional powers are. Except in one unfortunate instance, Kalam used them to great advantage to the nation’s polity.

    Comment by Geeta Padmanabhan — May 10, 2007 @ 8:59 pm | Reply

  11. […] Pabmanabhan considers Sudha Murthy and Shabana Azmi for president. “I would vote for Shabana Azmi,” said my husband surprising me totally. “It’s time […]

    Pingback by Shabana for Prez! at Blogbharti — May 10, 2007 @ 9:34 pm | Reply

  12. I would vote for Kiran Bedi.. I have huge respect for her guts and sincerity in bringing best change in her each role.
    Next one which appeals to me is , Arundharti Roy. Woman has a real passion for helping poors and She has a name in World.

    Comment by zeya — May 11, 2007 @ 12:30 am | Reply

  13. Women are mentally stronger than men and do not put up with nonsense/disrespect beyond a certain point. They are also less forgiving than men. It is difficult to visualise a woman as a lameduck president. Just imagine the likes of Mayawati, Jayalalitha, Mamata Banerjee in Presidential garb. I dont think our elected MLAs/MPs(predominantly male) would be willing to elect a woman-president.

    Comment by Ramanathan — May 14, 2007 @ 3:51 pm | Reply

  14. Hi Ramanathan, thanks for stopping by. I wish I could endorse your opinion of women completely. But that “certain point” is sometimes arrived at after long, long years of suffering. the three women you mention represent exceptions rather than the norm.
    But I’m totally with you in your skepticism about male willingness to vote a woman to the Prez’s office. Women who are strong and brook no nonsense are at once branded as arrogant and “unyielding”. In a man the very same qualities are considered “macho” and accepted as part of his personality.

    Comment by Geeta Padmanabhan — May 14, 2007 @ 10:18 pm | Reply

  15. I would not want another non-political person become president and come up with ideas like two party system or keep blabbering about an India 2020. (On blogbharti, madhat says “yes, he does sound like a self-help guru, doesn’t he?”) Someone who has a better understanding of politics would be a better choice. Capt Laxmi last time was a very good choice (I was surprised to see the left come up with a woman candidate. They never attempted giving better share to women in their parties. BJP was much better!)

    This time I would go for Sheila Dixit.

    Comment by sudeep — May 17, 2007 @ 3:16 pm | Reply

  16. Hi sudeep, I do see your point. I would want a person above party politics. One who would not end up a rubber stamp to what the government says. One who would exercise his right to send back a bill with questions for clarification. An intelligent person should be able to go through the constitution and understand the nuances, right? This time, as I said, Mayawati will have a definite say.

    Comment by Geeta Padmanabhan — May 17, 2007 @ 5:21 pm | Reply

  17. Your wishes have almost come true lady. Rejoice in the moment.

    Comment by Shrey — June 14, 2007 @ 10:40 pm | Reply

  18. Its intersting to see similiar though processes at work. I did a post some time back here

    Comment by vakils — June 15, 2007 @ 5:19 am | Reply

  19. Hi vakils, wish I had known. It is always good to know you are not alone in your thinking. If I had read your thoughts, I would have happily quoted you in this post. Thanks for stopping by.

    Comment by Geeta Padmanabhan — June 15, 2007 @ 9:17 pm | Reply

  20. Thanks Shrey. I hope you remember Prathibha Patil is not my personal choice. I’m consoling myself that she is better than the others on offer. Ideally this should go to a person of stature far removed from politics. Like APJ.

    Comment by Geeta Padmanabhan — June 15, 2007 @ 9:22 pm | Reply

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