India Elects A New President
Old is gold -- that will be the hopeful sentiment expressed by millions of Indians around the country as the next president, Pranab Mukherjee, was sworn in. Promising to “preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution and law” on July 25, Mukherjee took the presidential oath during an elaborate ceremony in a packed Central Hall of Parliament.
The president might have limited power, but as a seasoned political veteran, much will rest on the shoulders of the 78-year-old, especially considering the current situation India finds itself in. How much can he do?
The President – Mukherjee
Having spent about six decades in the Indian political spectrum, Mukherjee is an ideal choice for president in this South Asian country. He got his first break in 1969 when then-prime minster Indira Gandhi elected him into the Rajya Sabha -- the upper house of Indian Parliament. Since then, he has held numerous lofty positions in the Indian government, under the umbrella of the Congress party -- India's largest political party.
Believing that he should have been Indira Gandhi’s successor as prime minister after her assassination, Mukherjee was slighted as the more inexperienced Rajiv Gandhi succeeded his mother. Furious, he formed his own party, which merged with the Congress Party in 1989, and brought him back into mainstream Indian politics.
In the next chapter of his complicated political career, Mukherjee was made Foreign Minister in 1995, and won a seat in the Lower Parliament house for the first time 9 years later. Consistently No. 2 in government, he tired of his subordination and ran for president in 2012. Overwhelmingly elected with 70 percent of the vote, Mukherjee hopes to symbolize India’s rising sun.
An honest man, Mukherjee is labeled as Congress’s top troubleshooter, speaking out against corruption and scandal in his speeches. Mukherjee also sympathizes with India’s masses, and he always emphasizes helping the poor, stating utopically – “Poverty will be erased from the dictionary of modern India.”
The Indian government is structured differently from other republics of today, although it is considered the world’s closest thing to a real democracy. Like the more familiar US federate, it has three branches --judicial, legislative, and executive. The president heads the executive branch, although his/her role is relegated to a slightly powerful figurehead -- this is noticeably different from the U.S system where the President wields significant power.
The legislative branch is headed by the prime minister, who wields the real power in India's democratic system. This figure is responsible for global relations and economic control, and also assists in law making. The president is backed up by the two houses of Parliament -- known as Rajya Sabha and Lok Sabha.
India is a country of conflicts. India’s government is in a mess of politics, inflation, and indecision. However, its economy is rising at a steady rate and the country is playing a larger role in global affairs. Nearly 10 million people have been brought out of poverty under the present government.
Pranab Mukherjee, wisely, is focusing on India’s internal problems rather than those on the outside. For now, we wish good luck to India’s new president, and wait and see.