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15 June, 2007

Woman President: An occasion to celebrate

India can look forward to having its first woman President in the 60th year of Independence.

Barring unforeseen developments, Pratibha Patil, whom the ruling United Progressive Alliance and its Left allies have nominated for the top post, will be elected President next month as she has enough support in the electoral college to sail through.

Pratibha Patil emerged as consensus candidate after the Left parties rejected three other names proposed by the Congress party. Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Mayawati, whose Bahujan Samaj Party has significant strength in the electoral college, had said earlier that her party would support the UPA nominee.

The chances of the National Democratic Alliance, led by the Bharatiya Janata Party, putting up a candidate of its own cannot be ruled out. Although the ruling party/alliance customarily appeals to the opposition to support to its candidate to facilitate unanimous choice, there has been only one uncontested presidential election so far.

Neelam Sanjiva Reddy, the Janata Party candidate, was elected unopposed in 1977. He is also the only one who became President after tasting defeat in an earlier election. Nominated by the Congress party for the post in 1969, he lost to V.V.Giri, who had resigned the Vice-President’s post and contested as an Independent with the tacit support of Prime Minister Indira Gandhi.

A lady tenant in Rashtrapati Bhavan will not, of course, make any material difference to the polity or the position of women in Indian society. Nevertheless, Pratibha Patil’s election is an occasion for celebration since it is in tune with the nation’s commitment to gender justice.

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