Narendra Jadhav was against Reservation for his Daughter; Befitting next President of India

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Narendra Jadhav has all the credentials to be a great President of India. He was born in a Dalit family in Bombay and having read his unputdownable autobiography, I would not be very wrong in stating that his background is very similar that of Bhimrao Ambedkar. He got an opportunity to complete his education and with a brilliant academic record, was able to procure a job with the Reserve Bank of India. He rose steadily through the ranks and got an opportunity to complete a doctorate in economics from the University of Indiana in the United States. His meteoric rise with the Reserve Bank continued culminating in him becoming the Chief Economist where his stewardship is still remembered very fondly. Deeply interested in promoting education, he is the author of several books, both fiction and non-fiction. He was appointed the Vice Chancellor of Pune University and later on a Member of the of India where his inputs have always been very highly valued. In an interview, he conceded that reservation had helped him. His was about to enter higher studies and even before he was asked, he emphatically stated that she would not be getting the reservation benefits under any circumstances. When asked by the interviewer why he felt that way as Dalits were not excluded within the defined creamy layer, he was convincingly emphatic when he stated that notwithstanding the Constitutional provisions, he firmly believed that reservation benefits were only meant for the disadvantaged and he did not consider his to be ‘disadvantaged to justify being included in that category. Ashoka holds a torch to this exemplary , justifiably arguing in his favour to be the next President of India, exclusively in .

Very soon, after the ongoing provincial elections, India would have to elect a new President; I mention a ‘new president’ I am reasonably confident that Pranab Mukherjee would not get a second term. His vintage – he shall soon be 82-year-old – would go against him if not any other reason.

The Indian population would itself not participate in the electoral process directly. It would be upto the elected legislators that this indirect franchise is going to be exercised. It is a complex process where each legislator carries a certain number of votes which is a function of the number of people in his/her constituency and the province. I have a feeling that many Indian citizens themselves would not be in a position to accurately adumbrate the modus operandi involved in the process.

That notwithstanding, the office of the President has always been taken seriously by all the political players. We have to remember that internationally it is the office that has the widest franchise.

There has been a long-standing debate over the powers vested in the office of the President by the Indian Constitution. It first arose when the first President objected to the Hindu Code Bill being enacted into the statute in 1951. His objections were not over the substance of the Bill itself as is commonly presumed but over the fact that a bill of this nature which was likely to bring about far-reaching revolutionary changes in the society should only be dealt by an elected Parliament. Until 1952, it was the Constituent Assembly which had taken upon itself the role of interim Parliament. Motilal Setalwad, the Attorney General at the time opined that the President had no powers of his own under the Constitution and was bound to accept the advice of the Prime Minister. Patanjali Sastri, the Chief Justice in the same era believed that the Constitution in no way placed such an obligation upon the President. In this particular case, the Bill was to be presented again to the President after the 1952 General Elections and he had no qualms signing it. Mani Shakar Aiyar and his ilk were either deficient in their knowledge or had reasons of their own in a totally different spin they placed on the matter in a series of articles that were published recently.

The truth is that the so-called ‘obligation’ on part of the President to accept the advice of the Cabinet was instilled only when Indira Gandhi effected a constitutional change more than two decades later. The President is the only functionary, who has to take the oath to ‘defend’ the constitution – even after the Indira amendment, which curtailed the presidential powers significantly.

All the state actions are executed in the name of the President and if he/she was indeed expected to be a rubber stamp, I do not see why political parties would be so keen to get their man/woman in the office. The office itself carries certain dignity which unfortunately some of the holders have not been able to live up to. There have been even some who have compromised this dignity by not protecting the Constitution which of course remains the primary function of the office holder. Fakhruddin Ali Ahmed, a legal luminary (he was Advocate General of the state of Assam for a period) saw nothing wrong in even suspending the Constitution he had sworn to protect and India was reduced to being the biggest concentration camp known to humankind for over 18 months.

All the political parties appreciate the powers the President still enjoys hence the lobbying that inevitably goes on. The journalist Vir Sanghvi was on the mark when he stated that the very worst joke Indira Gandhi inflicted on the country after Fakhruddin Ali Ahmed was to place Giani Zail Singh as the President. Sonia Gandhi acted identically when she had no qualms placing a thoroughly incompetent Pratibha Patil widely perceived to be associated with questionable deals in the Rashtrapati Bhawan. I recall the news portal, Newslaundry, inviting people to write to it if they found any redeeming attribute in her. I am not sure how many did write nut as the results were never published, it is fair to assume that no one did; the portal is not known to conceal such information if it has any.

There have been other occupants of Rashtrapati Bhawan like Varahgiri Venkatgiri, who did not add any luster to the office. He always claimed to be an independent candidate but everyone knew that assertion to be patently disingenuous. He was the front man Indira used in her rebellion against the senior guards in her party. On his own, I doubt whether he would have made it even in a panchayat election – despite his oft-flouted credentials as a Dublin trained barrister and a labour leader. He had no qualms again when Indira made his obscure son a Member of Parliament – a precedent of which Pranab Mukherjee’s son took full advantage decades later. I am not against a presidential offspring joining politics but must admit I do find propelling an unknown person with no established record of public service into the hallowed precincts of the Parliament just because he/she happened to be the sitting Presidents’s offspring patently distasteful.

That is not to say that we have not had exemplary presidents. The first three have evoked near universal admiration. We have also had good presidents like Narayanan and great presidents like Avil Pakir Jainulabdeen Abdul Kalam!

In fact, some have remarked that Pratibha Patil seemed so awful because the person before her viz Kalam was simply out of this world. And by the same token, Pranab Mukherjee, a person who carries the unholy baggage of the Emergency and a number of other questionable acts, appears tolerable because the institution of the presidency had been so cruelly ‘pratibhapatilised’ before him.

All the more reasons we should start looking for worthy candidates for the august office now and try not to let the politicians muddy the waters which they surely will.

I would like my President to be a person of unimpeachable integrity whose commitment to the Constitution and the country can never be called into question even by his/her fiercest critics. I would like my president to be a man of learning and a scholar. I would like my president to be able to interact with his fellow citizens in the remote corners with the same comfort as he/she would with a visiting dignitary. And above all, I would like my president to have superabundant empathy for the less fortunate citizens not just by words but by deeds. To put it mildly, I would like my president to be someone we all can feel good about. In the present day context probably that would rule out most if not all the politicians we have in the horizon but again I would not be averse to a in that position if he/she had a demonstrated capacity to rise above political loyalties in matters of national interest and commitment to humanism.

In this context, I shall venture a name of someone whom I have met very briefly only once but who left an indelible impression on me. narendra Jadhav is a man I believe who has all the credentials to be a great President of India.

I shall take the liberty of adumbrating some of the attributes of this remarkable man. He was born in a Dalit family in Bombay and having read his unputdownable autobiography, I would not be very wrong in stating that his background is very similar that of Bhimrao Ambedkar. He got an opportunity to complete his education and with a brilliant academic record, was able to procure a job with the Reserve Bank of India. He rose steadily through the ranks and got an opportunity to complete a doctorate in economics from the University of Indiana in the United States. His meteoric rise with the Reserve Bank continued culminating in him becoming the Chief Economist where his stewardship is still remembered very fondly.

 

Deeply interested in promoting education, he is the author of several books, both fiction and non-fiction. He was appointed the Vice Chancellor of Pune University and later on a Member of the Planning Commission of India where his inputs have always been very highly valued. He had worked with Manmohan Singh but has been known to take independent positions which run contrary to the former Prime Minister. He has for the past year been a Member of the Rajya Sabha having been nominated through the eminent person quota and refused to even consider aligning himself with any political formation (as his less distinguished predecessor Mani Shankar Aiyar did). He did so because he believes that he is in the Parliament to express his own views and not be guided by any party.

Needless to say, his integrity is beyond reproach – he will not carry the baggage that most of the present day politicians would – including the present President!

I very vividly recall an interview where he freely conceded that reservation had helped him. His daughter was about to enter higher studies and even before he was asked, he emphatically stated that she would not be getting the reservation benefits under any circumstances. When asked by the interviewer why he felt that way as Dalits were not excluded within the defined creamy layer, he was convincingly emphatic when he stated that notwithstanding the Constitutional provisions, he firmly believed that reservation benefits were only meant for the disadvantaged and he did not consider his daughter to be ‘disadvantaged’ to justify being included in that category.

The man has demonstrated his mettle and should be elected our First Citizen, I believe his life would be truly inspirational for all of us.

Should Dr. Narendra Jadhav seem the most appropriate person or this job, I would like the readers of this article to write to their local representatives and make sure that his name remains on the political radar.

©Ashoka Jahnavi Prasad

Photos from the internet.

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Prof. Ashoka Jahnavi Prasad

Prof. Ashoka Jahnavi Prasad

Ashoka Jahnavi Prasad is a physician /psychiatrist holding doctorates in pharmacology, history and philosophy plus a higher doctorate. He is also a qualified barrister and geneticist. He is a regular columnist in several newspapers, has published over 100 books and has been described by the Cambridge News as the 'most educationally qualified in the world'.
Prof. Ashoka Jahnavi Prasad
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