India, the world's largest democracy, has a new head of state in trusted old guard of the ruling Congress Pranab Mukherjee who, in an election held on Sunday, defeated Bharatia Janata Party's 66-year old candidate Purno A. Sangma, a former speaker of Lok Sabha, the lower house of Indian parliament, by a wide margin. Mukherjee, 77, a Bengali who held the portfolios of finance, defence and external affairs in various Congress governments, will be elevated to his new role and shift his residence to the vast 500-room imperial Vicerigal Lodge of colonial era by the side of Mughal period Red Fort in Delhi on Wednesday. Why Congress chose Mukherjee for the office, is most probably that the Congress-led ruling coalition has been showing signs of fraying on several fronts and needed an activist president with an ability to foster co-operation or to enforce it by strength of his personality. This is what Mukherjee is known for, a trouble shooter whose composure even at the most critical situation works as a tool to resolve estrangements. He was regarded as the Congress Party's troubleshooter, entrusted with heading 83 out of the 183 ''Group of Ministers'' committees on various issues, including the key issue of tackling corruption. This was the Congress trust in Mukherjee that caused his selection to become the head of state. He remains Congress' most relied-upon leader whether or not the party is in power. However, there has been criticism over his job as finance minister, a position he held from 2009 until last month, for hiking food-price, mounting inflation, falling of rupee value besides controversial decision of involving foreign investors and declining economic growth.
The Indian constitution spells out a ceremonial role for the president in parliamentary democracy. His role is largely apolitical, giving assent to laws, appointing judges and cabinet on the advice of the executive, making ceremonial speeches and representing the country abroad. He is also the supreme commander of India's armed forces and holds reserve powers to be used when a government cannot be formed on the floor of parliament. But his party would need his experience and expertise in several elections that India would hold in future and that includes But India has several elections ahead, including a general election due by early 2014. As external affairs minister Mukherjee came to know in depth the tricky path New Delhi is treading while engaged in composite dialogue with Islamabad and Pakistan can now expect his role in facilitating the process, making it a meaningful exercise to resolve all outstanding issue to bring peace to conflict-ridden South Asia. comments powered by Disqus