The Presidential drama continues. We refer not to the post itself, which we respect deeply, but the brouhaha surrounding the candidates that has been playing itself out in the press for a couple of months now. From potential players and behind-the-scenes negotiations to the taking of sides and assassinations of character — all of this and more has gone toward creating what can only be described as a media spectacle.
What makes this almost amusing is how the actual post of President has been made out to be larger than it actually is. As head of state of the Republic of India, the President is elected by members of the two houses of Parliament, as well as the state legislatures. He or she rules for five years and can exercise powers directly. The fine print, however, states that authorities vested in the President are, in practice, exercised by the Council of Ministers headed by the Prime Minister.
The President’s legislative powers — to summon the Houses or dissolve the Lok Sabha — are formal in nature and can be implemented only in accordance with the Council of Ministers’ advice. Executive powers allow the President to make appointments of Governors, the Chief Election Commissioner and ambassadors but these, again, are based on recommendations made by the Council. Bills come to the President for approval, but he or she has the right to reject them just twice. There are other powers, of course, but they pale — for lack of a better word — in comparison with powers invested in the post of Prime Minister.
The point we are trying to make is that the hype and hoopla surrounding the forthcoming Presidential elections is disproportionate to the powers allocated to the post itself. We all need to take a deep breath and look at the larger picture.