Ayushman Jamwal works on the foreign desk at CNN-IBN.
Beyond India's brand of mysticism and its booming God economy, the world is amazed how a country as young and diverse as ours can pull off democracy as a system of governance. While we may feel proud of that, we are also privy to how that same diversity has fostered a competitive political culture - a spoil sport, selfish and conniving tussle between varied conservative and libertarian ideologies leading to regular policy paralysis. It is a politics of survival which is not limited to winner takes all elections. It filters into every facet of Indian life, politicising when convenient the way we dress, the television we watch, the way we celebrate, even the sexual orientation of citizens. Similarly, the office of the President of India, an apolitical Constitutional post, falls prey to the same culture even though politicians regularly preach a 'wide consensus' approach.
Citizens like myself hope to see a virtuous, diligent and inspirational person as President, a person with the ability and eloquence of spreading the vision of a prosperous and empowered India. However, in my opinion, India's brand of politics will not deliver visionaries or leaders, but political gamblers; survivors who reach the Indian people gift-wrapped in strings tugged in different directions. The current top candidates for the post, Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee and former Lok Sabha speaker PA Sangma, are seasoned political players who have striven and survived in the game of politics. By compulsion or intent, their careers have been consumed by hoarding support for either a political banner or a community. However, even with success at the polls, political gamblers are not always successful in delivering prosperity, hope or even vision to the citizenry. As a veteran Congress leader, Pranab Mukherjee's UPA alliance has had a dismal performance in all fields, be it the economy, education, defence or healthcare, while PA Sangma has made it clear that he just wants to cement his name as the first tribal President of India. For the post of President, they clearly cannot be the best choices. How are they fit to uphold issues of national welfare? How are they fit to inspire and motivate the youth of India? How are they fit to promote India to the world when their candidacy is not determined by their character but by their novelty as political players?
India is brimming with intellectual leaders who can better deliver such duty to the Indian people. In my opinion, one individual who stands out with the vision of an empowered India, who has the eloquence to inspire, and a firm grasp of the fabric of the nation, is the former Prince and Governor of Jammu and Kashmir, Dr Karan Singh. As Pratibha Patil takes her leave in July, I believe he is the ideal candidate for the office of the President of India
Dr Singh has a distinguished political and social service career. From 1967 to 1980 as well as in 1990, he served as a Lok Sabha MP and since 1996 he has been a Rajya Sabha MP. He has held Union Minister posts for Tourism and Civil Aviation, Health and Family Planning, Education and Culture, and served as the Indian ambassador to the United States. Dr Singh has also dedicated himself to the advancement and internationalisation of higher education in India. He has served as Chancellor of Banaras Hindu University, the University of Jammu and Kashmir, and the prestigious Jawaharlal Nehru University. He has also actively steered the work of several cultural boards, organisations, and foundations, including the Author's Guild of India, the Indian Council for Cultural Relations, the Auroville Foundation, and the Indian Board of Wildlife.
Unique amongst his peers, Dr Singh has had an unblemished career of civil service, carrying out all of his duties with responsibility and honour. A scholar of Indian culture, he has time and again stressed how India's cultural links across the world can serve as a powerful diplomatic tool. As the President of the Indian Council for Cultural Relations, Dr Singh has done great service to the country. From under his leadership, the ICCR now runs 20 cultural centres aboard and supports 24 Chairs of Indian Studies in Universities around the world. It offers over 2000 scholarships every year to foreign students including 675 scholarships to Afghan students in accordance with the Prime Minister's commitment during his last visit to Afghanistan.
Political hawks may argue that Dr Singh's royal background makes him an inappropriate candidate to be President. For the 21st century Indian, it isn't the title of a person but the actions that emphasise the content of his or her character. Dr Singh's dedication to national service, his belief in the culture and citizenry of the nation and his drive to deliver India abroad make him a model Indian citizen. If he ever graces Rashtrapati Bhawan, I believe all Indian citizens will be proud to call him President and the world will watch that Indian Democracy can produce some astute options for its leaders.