Some say pati means husband and therefore woman president of India should be called rashtrapatni in Hindi. Little knowledge is dangerous. Pati has several meanings. It means hushand, owner or lord. There are words like bhupati, ashwapati, gajapati and prajapati. They do not mean husband of land, horses, elephants and people. Here the meaning is owner or lord.
India is not the first country to have a woman president. Iceland, Ireland, Sri Lanka, Philippines are some of the countries that had women presidents. They were referred to as rashtrapati in Hindi news bulletins. When Najma Heptullah was the Deputy Chairman (Constitution does not mention Chairperson) of the Council of States (Rajya Sabha) she was referred to as Upa Sabhapati. It seems those who advocate the use of rashtrapatni never watched Hindi news bulletins.
When I wrote about Shivraj Patil I did not expect the situation to change in the next 24 hours. Much less did I expect Pratibha Patil to be the UPA candidate for President.
Pratibha Patil was not in the picture. Left Front did not go along with UPA. They said no to Shivraj Patil and Karan Singh. This was unexpected. The idea of fielding a woman candidate was floated and Pratibha Patil was acceptable to Left Front.
Bal Thackeray changed his position about Shivraj Patil. Shivraj Patil would not be supported just because he is a Marathi manoos. His contribution as Home Minister was questioned. He did not solve Karnataka — Maharashtra border dispute and did not reject the mercy petition of Afzal.
It is not clear why Karunanidhi had to be a mediator between Congress and Left Front. Is the relationship between Congress and Left Front is strained? If so, it is bad for UPA.
Not much is known about Pratibha Patil. Her candidature may deter cross voting in favour of Bhairon Singh Shekhawat. Pratibha Patil is married to Devisingh Shekhawat. Someone called her a political featherweight. If she had been a political heavyweight she would not have been chosen by Congress President Sonia Gandhi.
A woman becoming President will not make much of a difference to women in the country. We had a woman Prime Minister for 16 years. That did not make much of a difference to women in the country.
Pratibha Patil becoming President has no connection to Women’s Reservation Bill. Women are free to contest and win 100% seats. Events in Rajasthan have shown the need to abolish reservations. As it is Women’s Reservation Bill has not been passed because OBCs demand their share in 33%. Imagine a situation where all communities want their share in 33%.
As things stand Pratibha Patil should win comfortably.
It seems Shivraj Patil will soon be the candidate of UPA for Presidential Election. Mayawati will support UPA candidate. Left Front is likely to go along after expressing its reservations. Bal Thackeray has declared that Shiv Sena will support Shivraj Patil because he is a Marathi Manoos. Jayalalitha has declared that Third Front will not support Bhairon Singh Shekhawat. Shivraj Patil’s chances of becoming the President of India are 75%.
Pranab Mukherjee was a leading contender. Left Front was in favour of him overlooking the claim of its own Somnath Chatterjee. However Congress President was not sure of Pranab Mukherjee’s loyalty to her. So his candidature suffered and an excuse was given that he was indispensable to run the government. Now he has the task of building consensus in favour of Shivraj Patil which is rubbing salt in his wounds.
Names of many other Congress leaders made the rounds. Arjun Singh, Sushilkumar Shinde, Veerappa Moily, Motilal Vora, Narayan Dutt Tiwari and Karan Singh were some of them. None could succeed.
Shivraj Patil can be counted on to favour Congress in general and Sonia Gandhi and her family in particular. His record as Speaker of the Lok Sabha speaks volumes about his partiality. He will disregard norms and conventions to favour Congress. His record as Home Minister of India was pathetic. Naxals became strong.
Congress has some good candidates like Kapil Sibal, P. Chidambaram, A. K. Antony etc. I do not agree with some of the policies of P. Chidambaram but he is good to be President. Kapil Sibal and A. K. Antony have proved themselves. I expect these three to be impartial.
Let a good person from Congress be its candidate.