New President of India; the price of Democracy


It is official: India will now have a new president. For the first time, some sixty years after the nation came into being, the Indian Republic will have a woman president in Pratibha Patil. India deserves to be congratulated for yet another step forward. Indeed, it is as important to have a woman president as it is to have a minority (Muslim) one or someone from a marginalized group (a so-called Untouchable). India has had such presidents before.
Sadly, the choice of this president was not made under happy circumstances. In the past few weeks, soon after her name was announced as a possible candidate for president of the world’s largest democracy, a spate of ugly revelations were made about scandals and criminal activities in which some of her family members were involved. And then it was clamored that she had an for affinity to astrology and other old-world beliefs, and that she was more Hindu than secular in some negative ways. Never before were such harsh and taunting things written and said about a candidate for president of the Indian nation. There were protests and calls for her to resign. But she did not. Looking very much a traditional Hindu woman, head covered with part of her sari and forehead adorned with a traditional tilak, this one-time lawyer remained indifferent to the comments and criticisms relating to her. Her nomination by the Congress Party was not swayed, much to the dismay of the extreme left, of Muslims, and of those sectors of the educated classes that have been scientifically educated. Whether one likes it or not – and some of their arguments were quite sound and reasonable – , her views and beliefs on extra-terrestrial and supernatural things resonate fully with the vast majority of the people of India to this day.
The fact is, Ms Patil has been duly elected. The way democracy works, there are rules by which political leaders come to power. People have every right to support the candidates of the choice, and attack as harshly as they wish the rival ones. But once the process has borne result, all citizens and political candidates will have to concede the results of a duly conducted election, congratulate the winner, and move on.
So, even if the choice of Mrs. Patil as President of Modern India was wrong in the view of many, they are morally and legally obliged to accept the new president. The one good thing about democracy is that even the most hated or the least respected winner in an election will have to step down after a pre-determined length of time. This is also the reason why dictators detest democracy.
It must be remembered that the President’s role is largely ceremonial as per the India Constitution.
What must be stressed is the fact that a woman will be gracing that position for the next five years in India. This is a matter about which all people with Indian connection can be legitimately happy. Its symbolic significance is enormous, and is bound to inspire millions of little girls and grown women in India.
Congratulations to Mrs. Pratipbha Patil and to India are in order.

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About Varadaraja V. Raman

Physicist, philosopher, explorer of ideas, bridge-builder, devotee of Modern Science and Enlightenment, respecter of whatever is good and noble in religious traditions as well as in secular humanism,versifier and humorist, public speaker, dreamer of inter-cultural,international,inter-religious peace.
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