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Sreedhar Pillai Headshot

Is the Next U.S. President Going to Be Elected on Negativity Like Pranab Mukherjee of India?

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Perhaps it is time Americans considered changing their electoral system for something "funnier," like the presidential election of India. In the Indian presidential election a candidate for whom some parties refuse to declare their support has more of a chance to be elected as the president of the country than others the parties choose to support. It is merely the negative political sentiments that come into play irrespective of the caliber and suitability of the individual.

With the trend of latching onto the "negativity" in every statement and every faux pas the president or his opponents make and blowing it out of proportion, the American democratic process also beckons the question of whether it is a desirable trait for a free and fair electoral process of a leading democratic nation.

In India everything, especially politics, assumes ridiculous and illogical character during the elections. With numerous peculiarities and idiosyncrasies only Indians can tolerate, like the "X factor" unique to Indian politics, the Indian democratic process is reduced to a mere democratic mantle.

In terms of political power, the two presidencies have no comparison, except in an emergency when the Indian president can assume unlimited and unprecedented executive powers like those of the U.S. president. Nevertheless, the electoral processes, which decides the president by an election or a unanimous choice, can reflect the political balance in the Indian context.

By all counts, Pranab Mukherjee, India's finance minister, fit the bill to be elected unanimously as the country's president. If Mukherjee, despite his three decades of service to the country as part of various governments, including that of Indira Gandhi, is not well-known outside India, it is his own fault for being a thorough, noncontroversial, and soft-spoken gentleman politician, which has made him universally acceptable. Yet in the Indian system even an eminently suitable candidate like Mukherjee has to be propped up by negative and partisan vagaries of the political class.

Four years back, when the congress party president Sonia Gandhi chose to install Pratibha Patil as the first woman president of the country, perhaps with a vision into the future for herself, it was the refusal of BJP, the main opposition, to support the incumbent President Kalam that led to her success.

Interestingly, an open declaration of support of BJP to Kalam this time has simply precluded his chances of ever becoming the president again, as practically ever party rejected the suggestion.

A few weeks back Indian communists declared their support for Pranab Mukherjee, a native of West Bengal and India's minister for Finance, as the new president. Though this had increased the support for Pranab, Mamta Banerjee, chief of Thrinamool Congress who rules West Bengal, did not support him, merely because of her opposition to the communists. Such is the nature of egoistic, negative politics of India.

However, the communists now have changed their mind and are clamouring for someone outside the ruling congress party as the new president. This no doubt has increased the fortune of Pranab Mukherjee, as Mamta Banerjee now has no option but to support him.

What is interesting is that the credentials and capability of a person who hopes to be the figurehead of the largest democracy of the world has no relevance in this incredibly idiotic process, which every Indian needs to be ashamed of.

These ridiculous vagaries of Indian politics, which several regional players play out, may never infect the American system, clearly established in a two-party political debate and balance. However, the bickering and wrangling amplified by the media and social Web certainly take the sheen out of a process that many inside and outside the country believe must be a model for the fledging democracies of the world.