Anna Hazare says President should be elected by public

Jun 20, 2012, 07:14 IST | Vivek Sabnis

Activist feels question of who occupies nation's highest office can't be left to electoral college composed of politicians

Anti-corruption crusader Anna Hazare yesterday said he was not interested in fighting the upcoming presidential election as it was a political contest and he preferred working as a social activist over taking part in such a “political race”.

Activist meets activist: Lt Col Suresh Patil (Retd) with Anna Hazare in Ralegansiddhi yesterday. Patil plans to run for president and met Hazare to seek his support for his candidature in the race for the highest office in the country. Hazare said he would consider the request. Pic/Vivek Sabnis

“I am not fit for the post of president as the election is a political race,” he said. In an exclusive interview at his office in Ralegansiddhi yesterday, Hazare said he was not happy with the indirect election method used to decide on the president.
He also lamented the fact that the decision of former president Dr A P J Abdul Kalam to not fight the election had left no apolitical candidate in the contest.

“I am not fit for the president’s post, as I prefer to be a social worker fighting against corruption in the country and to continue the struggle for the passage of the Jan Lokpal bill,” he said. “What I can do as a social activist is wider in scope than what can be done by occupying any political post in the country.”

Hazare also said he preferred a directly elected president as the current method of an electoral college voting for the presidential candidates excluded the general public from the process.

“The present law on the president’s election permits only the elected politicians in the country to cast their votes, which is not good enough,” he said. “Let the people of this country be involved in the election directly. This requires a revolutionary change in the present law made for the president’s election. The common man’s involvement in the presidential election will be the true democratic way to elect the president.”

Lt Col Suresh Patil (Retired), an aspiring candidate for the presidential election, yesterday met Hazare to seek his support for his candidature. Patil has been closely associated with Hazare since 1977 and had also worked for the anti-corruption agitation in the state.

Patil also runs an environmental group called the Green Thumb Environmental Protection Group and was in the news recently for having led a successful campaign against the allotment of land in Khadki to President Pratibha Patil for her retirement home.

Hazare said he would think of backing Suresh Patil’s candidature if Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee withdrew from the race. “If Pranab Mukharjee goes out of the competition for the presidential election, I can put in my word for Lt Col Patil,” Hazare said. Social activists working with Hazare in the campaign for the Jan Lokpal bill had recently levelled corruption charges against Mukherjee.

Hazare expressed his trust in Patil, but said he did not want him to fight for a futile cause. “I can put in a word and suggest his name, but I also don’t want to make a futile effort as at present a big political tussle is on for presidential election,” Hazare said.

Hazare also expressed his fear that none of the political parties would allow a non-political person to become the president of the country. “Sadly, some of the political leaders had also protested against Lokpal bill,” he said.

Patil’s supporters Rafiq Hebbalkar, former air force sergeant Krishna Yadav, Captain Shambhu Bidve (Retired) and Arbaz Hebbalkar also met Hazare in Ralegansiddhi. Earlier, Major Mathew Oommen (Retired) had also declared his support for Patil as a candidate for the president’s election.

They requested Hazare to give openly declare his support for Patil. “He (Patil) is fighting for the truth and Anna should not hesitate to back such a person,” Rafiq Hebbalkar, member of the Green Thumb Environmental Protection Group, said. “Patil has a good character and a strong background in social and environmental work.” In a letter, Oommen stated: “Col Patil has high integrity, spirit of sacrifice, probity and sensitivity towards the needs of common man.” 

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