Justice Rajindar Sachar will make a Perfect President

[हिंदी] Different political parties have been forwarding their choices for the President's post. In the beginning it appeared that Mulayam Singh will support the candidature of A.P.J. Abdul Kalam. This belief was strengthened when he supported Sharad Pawar's proposal that the President should be a apolitical person. However, now Mulayam Singh has retracted from his position. On the other hand Lalu Yadav proposed Vice-President Hamid Ansari's name for the post. Lalu is so close to the Congress that it appeared that he was essentially voicing Congress's choice. The names of West Bengal 's former Governor Gopal Krishna Gandhi, A.K. Antony, Sushil Kumar Shinde, Meira Kumar and even Dr. Manmohan Singh has since done the rounds. There seems to be a consensus emerging around Pranab Mukherjee's name. For most political parties whether belonging to UPA or NDA, he is the most acceptable for President's post.

            However, from the statements of Congress leaders like Salman Khurshid and Renuka Choudhary, it looks like that Congress may not let go off its most reliable trouble shooter in a phase when the party is going through it most serious credibility crisis in recent times. This is Pranab Mukherjee's misfortune that since the time of P.V. Narsimha Rao, when he too was a possible candidate for the PM's job, he has been expected to submit his individual interest to that of the party.

            Considering the dignity associated with the position and the need to maintain neutrailty it would be better if the person holding this office doesn't belong to any mainstream political party. However, the person should also not be apolitical like A.P.J. Abdul Kalam and must possess basic social, economic and political understanding of our society.

            One person who understands our political system very well and is undoubtedly the most popular public figure in the country today not associated with any mainstream political party is Anna Hazare. He has demonstrated that people's power is more soverign than parliament in a democracy. He has also commanded the respect of the parliament which a legend deserves. It would have been most appropriate if all political parties were to offer him the post of President of the country by consensus. However, Anna has made is clear that he is not interested in holding any public office. Had he become the President he could have initiated the process of freeing people from the clutches of corruption for which people have much hope from him and his movement.

            Another name in this genre is that of retired Chief Justice of Delhi High Court Rajindar Sachar. In addition to being knowledgeable about constitution and law he has demonstrated a very fine understanding about the society by coming out with a pathbreaking report on the socio-economic conditions of Muslims in India on behalf of a Committee headed by him. He had joined the Socialist Party even before independence in 1946 and has rich experience of working with Dr. Ram Manohar Lohia. His father Bhim Sen Sachar was a minister in the undivided Punjab government and the first Chief Minister of the Indian Punjab after partition. Hence Rajindar Sachar has seen politics from very close quarters. Yet he belongs to a class of people who because of their faith in certain political values know how to keep themselves immune from political allurements. He has rejected the offer of a Padma award.

            The greatest erosion that has taken place in Indian politcs is that of values. The opportunistic politics that is dominating our country is not in anybody's interest. Only people like Anna Hazare or Rajindar Sachar, who hold firm commitment towards the values enshrined in our Constitution, can even make the effort of putting the politics back on its track. Nobody from any mainstream political party can perform this task neither can we say that such a person has belief in our Constitution.

            Justice Sachar has served on important UN Sub-Commission on Prevention of Discrimination and Protection of Minorities as well as on UN Commission on Human Rights related to right to adequate housing. He has also participated in a hearing before the Israeli Supreme Court upon being invited as a legal expert by Palestinian and Israeli Human Rights groups. He has rich experience of political work with various trade unions.

            The greatest contribution of Rajindar Sachar is that when the politics of terrorism had taken over this country and when the middle class and media was imagining a terrorist in every Muslim citizen, by coming out with a report on the socio-economic status of Muslim community he presented them as victims rather than culprits. By making this contribution he not only did a great service for the Muslim community but also for the country as a whole. Unless we identify the problem correctly we can't hope to find its solution. Today the country has understood that terrorism is not related to any specific religion and that the backwardness of Muslims is responsible for their insecurity.

            It is because of the report brought out by committee headed by Rajindar Sachar that all political parties, except for BJP, are supporting the demand for reservation for Muslims. In fact, they are competing with each other to emerge as biggest benefactor of Muslim community. From this point of view Rajindar Sachar's contribution is a milestone in Indian history.

            If all political parties collectively decide to make Rajindar Sachar the President it will be the beginning of new chapter in Indian politics as it will establish values which will ensure that the benefits of democracy reach the last person in society. Only a person not influenced by mainstream politics and yet possessing a deep social-economic-political understanding of our society, who leads a simple life at the individual level can give the country a direction which will fulfil the dream envisioned by our freedom fighters.

Dr Sandeep Pandey
(The author is a Ramon Magsaysay Awardee and a noted social activist. He is a former faculty member of Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Kanpur, did his PhD from University of California, Berkeley, and presently leads the National Alliance of People's Movements (NAPM) and Asha Parivar. He is also a member of the national presidium, Lok Rajniti Manch. Email: ashaashram@yahoo.com)

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