NEW DELHI: The offices of President and Vice-President should not be held by people other than politicians, feels incumbent President Pranab Mukherjee.
He also feels the role of presiding officers in legislative chambers should be similarly viewed as persons “otherwise eminent and competent” may not have the required political judgement to balance a delicate situation.
The President’s views on these Constitutional posts in the context of the running of the Houses of Parliament and the role of the presiding officers are part of his just-released book “The Dramatic Decade: The Indira Gandhi Years”.
So far S Radhakrishnan and APJ Abdul Kalam had occupied the post without a political career. Similarly, S Radhakrishnan, GS Pathak and Justice M Hidayatullah were Vice-Presidents without a political background.
He refers to a situation when the Congress party and Indira Gandhi had returned to power in 1980 but was lacking in majority in the Rajya Sabha.
It was in the context of the Government wanting to avoid a defeat on its resolution in the Upper House seeking approval of dissolution of some Assemblies in a ‘tit for tat’ action against Janata Party, whose Government had dismissed Congress governments in some states when it came to power in 1977.
“I was confident of winning in the Rajya Sabha. But while I did not like to be bullied by the opposition, I did not like the Chairman (M Hidayatullah, former Chief Justice of India).
“The Chairman had a desire to assume total power with regards to business of the House. This role of a presiding officer may have been theoretically correct but was practically not possible,” he says.
Mukherjee, a veteran politician and a parliamentarian, says that the House is a political institution not merely a debating club. It has to transact the business of the Nation initiated, and be guided by prevailing political forces.
“The Rajya Sabha was to play a balanced role in transacting business. It was not a secondary chamber but, at the same time, it could not take advantage of numerical position of a party to play an obstructionist role against the wishes of the ruling party, which had come to power with the mandate of the people,” he says.
So, Mukherjee feels, the handling of a delicate situation by maintaining a balance required political judgement not always available with persons otherwise eminent and competent.
“I am of the view that offices such as those of the President and the Vice-President should not be held by people other than politicians, and the role of presiding officers in legislative chambers has to be similarly viewed,” the President writes in the book.