Grandma's Tales

May 8, 2007

Why not a woman President for India? 2

Filed under: Government,Society — Geeta Padmanabhan @ 6:06 pm

Hi Shafaly,
I look forward to your comments – you write lucid prose and your arguments are substantial. I’m sure the readers will feel the same way after reading this.

A titular head, such as the President is, should be seen to be uncontroversial, trustworthy beyond personal interests and politically neutral – a bit like the Queen in the UK – who can command international stature. After the likes of Dr S Radhakrishnan and Dr Rajendra Prasad, Indira Gandhi did great disservice to the ‘garima’ of the office by bringing in Zail Singh, which I think was restored by the current President’s appointment. For these reasons, the likes of Sudha Murthy do not fit the bill.
The statesman (or stateswoman, whichever way) must rise above transactional politics and issue-based politics. It would also have to be a person who is happy with vestiges of an effectively ceremonial office rather than seeking real power. As such I am not sure about Shabana Azmi, whose activist work may be severely curtailed in this role of playing Bharat-mata of sorts. At any rate, why seek ceremonial power when one can have serious, real power of elected office?
If the role, the position is a symbol, then it has to stand for many things and the search is a complex one. From reading about Indian politics and society over the years, I do not think we have a strong candidate yet.
And if we keep an open mind, I would wager that the office may be filled by a dignified, high-achievement woman from the corporate world, rather than the non-profit or activism sort of backgrounds.
Thanks, Shefaly. Let me add a couple of points. Yes, I’m all for someone from the corporate world. And there are many who would fit the bill. I think India is ready for a woman Prez. Why not a writer? They are society watchers and thinkers, aren’t they? They might add to the dignity of this office, don’t you think?



  1. Oh, sorry, I wanted to add a couple things:

    1. Writers: I am not sure. I cannot think of anyone who will meet the criteria and not slip any time during office… Whom did you have in mind, in particular?

    2. Walter Bagehot’s The English Constitution (1867) is argubaly the best account of the history and working of the British political system. The only reason I mention it here is that he distinguishes between the dignified and the efficient aspects of the functions of political institutions. The President (as does the Queen) is ‘dignified’, the PM ‘efficient’, strictly used in the sense Bagehot uses it in the said book. Thanks.

    Comment by Shefaly — May 8, 2007 @ 7:54 pm | Reply

  2. Should have been ‘arguably’ and (as IS the Queen). Apologies.

    Comment by Shefaly — May 8, 2007 @ 7:54 pm | Reply

  3. Well, I guess we’ll all start looking at our distinguished women with new eyes. Is she Prez material?:-) If Rukmini Arundale were around, I would certainly have recommended her.She was dignified and efficient.

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

  4. I was mistaken! This blog is not a place where great writing is done by Geeta Mam alone. Brief, “bulls-eye” post by Shefaly!!

    Comment by Jose — May 8, 2007 @ 9:08 pm | Reply

  5. Jose, that is terribly kind of you! 🙂

    Mine was not a post; it was a response to an earlier post by Mrs P which she chose to highlight so kindly in a post format.

    Comment by Shefaly — May 9, 2007 @ 12:28 am | Reply

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