The seat of the president is ceremonial, but prestigious. The president is symbolic, but he assumes importance in times of political crisis. Five years of Pratibha Patil, Kalam’s successor, has mired this institution in several controversies and has raised a pertinent question of whether politicians will make effective presidents.
And unfortunately all these controversies were not even political in nature. In most cases, Pratibha Patil remained surrounded with allegations of personal gains. She was allotted defence land, the size of which was six times more than she was eligible for, in Pune. She gave up the plot after the controversy rose, but the damage was done.
The government exchequer spent Rs 205 core on Patil’s foreign visits, highest so far by any president. Her son Amaravati Rajendra Sekhawat allegedly used his status as president’s son to acquire a 532 sq m plot of land in Maharashtra in February 2012. His mother inaugurated a flyover for his political gains near Kondhali, 20 km from Amravati in December 2011.
In June 2007, Professor Rajni Patil accused Pratibha Patil of shielding her brother G N Patil. G N Patil was accused of murdering Rajni Patil’s husband. A women cooperative bank became insolvent after the loan waiver to family members and relatives of Pratibha Patil. She herself had set up the bank in 1973 and the RBI closed it due to insolvency in 2003. A sugar cooperative was shut down for defaulting with bank loans. Pratibha Patil was its chairperson.
And six weeks before the UPA-Left announced the candidature of Pratibha Patil for president in 2007, her husband was leased out prime 25,000 square feet land in Amravati and the Maharashtra government agreed to build a sports complex on it with Rs 36 lakh from her MPLADS fund!
Can politicians with such “baggage” be allowed to walk into the president’s house?
The key question now is can Pranab Mukherjee, the President of India, survive the next five years without any controversies?
The answer is ‘no’. Team Anna is already gunning for him and is working day and night on their chargesheet issued against him among other present ministers of the UPA government. Former telecom minister A Raja is already swearing on the fact that he had consulted Pranab Mukherjee, when he was the Minister of External Affairs, for disposal of spectrum and he had duly written to the PM about his meeting with Pranab. Team Anna has begun its agitation as soon as Pranab has taken over as President.
Just look at the charges leveled by Team Anna. Many of these cases are going through the court process.
• Navy war room leak: Pranab is accused of delaying CBI enquiry into the case by claiming that the Navy war room leak contained only commercial information. In his interview dated February 12 2006 to Karan Thapar, Pranab stated that no criminal investigation was needed in this case as the information leaked through the Pen Drive was of commercial nature and did not have any bearing on the security of the country. The leak was discovered in May 2005, but the first Board of Inquiry by Naval HQs was established only in July 2005. And Pranab handed over the case to the CBI nine months later, in February 2006.
• Scorpene deal case: The allegation is that some middle men received 4 percent commission on behalf of Congress party which happens to be the ruling party, in Scorpene deal. Team Anna has given emails and call details as evidence and has asked Pranab to face independent enquiry. A PIL has been filed in this regard. Abhishek Verma is one of the accused in this case.
• Rice Export Scam: The Government of Ghana in a seven-page letter demanded investigations into the role of the then External Affairs Minister and the Commerce Minister, Pranab Mukherjee. Is it not the first case of its kind that a foreign government has asked the Government of India demanding investigations against specific Ministers? Did it ever happen in the past, asks Team Anna?
• Interference in the functioning of Sebi: Team Anna shows a letter written by Sebi member K M Abraham to Prime Minister complaining that Pranab Mukherjee has been repeatedly interfering in the functioning of Sebiand trying to influence the proceedings at Sebi against powerful corporate interests, including Reliance, Sahara, etc.
• Interference in appointment of key officials: In their reply to Pranab Mukherjee’s letter where he denies Team Anna’s allegations, they write that when they raised the matter of ministers’ corruption on 26th May 2012 in the public domain, they received many emails of related allegations against all ministers. “Mr. Arun Agrawal, who is a credible voice in India, has shared a note in your regard. Please see note at Annexure C on how Ms Omita Paul, your advisor, has been interfering in the appointments of Chairmen of UTI and Sebi,” says the letter. You can see both the letter and the Annexure below.
• The Nira Radia tapes highlights a conversation with the former finance secretary and Member of the Rajya Sabha, NK Singh, who alleges that Pranab was willing to grant a Rs 81,000 crore retrospective tax concession to Reliance.
The president’s speech was a clear signal that Pranab, the president will be vocal. Given the allegations above, he might very well spend much of his time defending himself than being the moral voice of the country.
Read Team Anna’s response to Pranab’s letter below
Team Anna’s Response to Pranab Mukherjee’s Letter