The new global scenario, economic doldrums and the socio-political situation only herald a vastly different era.
It is a privilege to congratulate you on taking over as the 14th President of the Republic of India. Respected Sir, you have taken over at a time when — in the view of this humble citizen — the country is at a crossroads. Perhaps such a situation arises with every new President every five years, but in your case the challenge is more complex.
There are a lot many things changing in India and many things are changing all around us. The new global scenario, economic doldrums and the socio-political situation only herald a vastly different era. This can make your task difficult. But as a sincere citizen, I am confident that you would do well to guide our nation towards peace, prosperity and, most important, inclusive development. Your Excellency, you are today the country’s First Citizen — at a time when various issues are in the public domain. Some citizens say they no longer feel safe, while others complain about the kind of polarisation we are seeing — which was not known in India earlier.
In the new century you know, Sir, that collapse for any nation could come relatively quietly through the invisible route of economic collapse. There is also the added need to be prepared for cyber-warfare.
I am fully aware that in our parliamentary democracy, you hold only a high constitutional position and the elected government of the day is expected to cater to day-to-day issues of governance. I am sure that the government of the day is doing its job and will be do so in future as well. But, Sir, your coming up to the position of Rashtrapati — as you rightly said after your election — demonstrates the triumph of Indian democracy.
Certainly, Sir, your humble beginnings and rise to the office of President of India is highly inspiring. But with that we expect that whenever a problem or shortcoming happens, you will make use of your good offices and caution even the government of the day if need be whenever it fails to live up to the people’s expectations.
You have tried to draw inspiration from the likes of Dr Rajendra Prasad, Dr Sarvapalli Radhakrishnan and Dr A.P.J. Abdul Kalam. All of them, as well as your illustrious predecessor Pranab Mukherjee, have set the healthy tradition of calling spade a spade — more than once. The same expectation would be there with you also.
I am stating this with all sincerity, Sir, as about two decades back, every Republic Day eve speech by then President K.R. Narayanan used to be more than just an annual ritual. Narayanan spoke from the heart and often made hard-hitting references to things that were not right with the country.
Sir, the late Rajiv Gandhi often used to say that elections are won and elections are lost. But victories don’t just give power, they should also confer a keen sense of responsibility. May I therefore suggest here, Your Excellency, that the government of the day at the Centre should learn to be more responsible.
I am tempted here to talk about the United States, and am well aware that future historians may well identify the George W. Bush administration’s rash invasion of Iraq in 2003 as the start of America’s downfall. This is important to refer to here as I strongly feel about some of the points. In India’s case, the kind of television debates that we now witness every evening only makes me feel scared about our nation’s futue. Are there forces in this country who want to play the “enemy within” and “enemy outside” type of cards. Was our rivalry with our western neighbour, Pakistan, not enough that we are, on an almost daily basis, in a confrontation mode with another major Asian power? Who will actually benefit from such a confrontational approach? The people of India are looking for answers to some of these questions. But I don’t intend to only raise questions.
As Rashtrapati, I feel that you have a vision of India and I thus have full confidence that you will guide the government towards taking corrective measures — wherever these are important.
Sir, corruption and manipulation among Indian leaders — you will agree — had helped the British to quickly establish and expand their control over India during the colonial era. Is it not time, therefore, that we Indians — and specially the political class — rise above partisan differences, over our narrow domestic walls?
Some may still ask — why am I writing this letter? Your Excellency, I have been a non-political individual and would not bother much about political events. But some of these are now leaving an impact on my personal and professional life. So I am writing as a concerned citizen, Mr President, who is hoping that the Republic is very safe in your hands. I have listed some key concerns in this letter. But before I conclude, I would like to add a few more points — more out of sincerity than anything else.
The political rhetoric we see all around is essentially only a web of words. But these have certainly created some tension —which has come to stay.
The sound and fury have ensured that some unpalatable realities are not discussed at all. What makes me worried is that some of these are about issues that are not vital in modern times — such as religion — but are being expressed as “national views”, and with conviction. These could well have serious consequences — and here comes the role of Rashtrapati Bhavan.
Your Excellency, my hope is that we can now look towards you to give us a soothing touch. We have had enough of debates and confrontations in the television studios and in the political space. It is time that we turn our focus towards nation-building, and who better than you, Mr President, to show us the way. For any nation to prosper, its people have to be confident of themselves. We look to you, Mr President, to become our mentor and to give us that confidence.
The writer is a former chairman of the Andhra Pradesh Electronics Development Corporation and founder of the Prof. G.V. Sudhaker Rao Foundation