Foreign Affairs

Pranab Mukherjee is India’s 13th president



NEW DELHI, JUL 22 -Veteran Congress leader Pranab Mukherjee, who is often portrayed as a ‘Nepal-expert’ in New Delhi, has been elected India’s 13th President.

While on one hand, Mukherjee has finally got the dues for his distinguished political career spanning over five decades, on the other, his departure from active Indian politics will be mainly felt in the Congress party for which he was “Mr Dependable.”
Mukherjee’s election will also have some impact on India’s Nepal policy since he used to be the only cabinet minister of the current Indian government who was directly involved in Nepal policy. His personal relationship with Nepali leaders had, to a large extent, helped discussions on bilateral concerns in a candid way. Against this backdrop, departure of a leader like Mukherjee, who kept a close tab on Nepal-related issues, is destined to create some gaps in India’s Nepal policy.
Mukherjee was the “troubleshooter” for the Congress-led government, which has been on a defensive for its failure to check corruption and financial woes, among other things. Clearly, there is no leader in the Congress party now who has the stature as that of Mukherjee and also the wide-acceptability to bring even the adversaries on board in crucial national issues.
However, Mukherjee’s victory in the presidential polls has been a lukewarm motivator for the Congress party at a time when the 2014 parliamentary elections loom large.
The political equations seen during the presidential polls have brought about a wave of happiness in the Congress circle. There were fissures in the opposition National Democratic Alliance over the support to the UPA presidential candidate.
However, the Congress must be aware that this happiness may not last long as it should understand that the support garnered by UPA in the presidential polls is due to Mukherjee’s widely-accepted image and is not an endorsement of the ruling coalition.
Problems have already started emerging and recently, coalition partner, the Nationalist Congress Party, has threatened to quit the government over the number-2 rank in the Cabinet. NCP’s supremo and Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar wants that position, which was given to Defence Minister AK Antony after Mukherjee left the Cabinet for Raisina Hill (president’s palace).
If political pundits are to be believed, Mukherjee’s role as president will be very crucial as the 2014 general election is set to produce a fractured result.
Though largely ceremonial, it is the president’s prerogative to call for the formation of a government and Mukherjee’s role will be decisive in case of fractured results.

This piece originally appeared in July 23rd issue of The Kathmandu Post.Here is the link :