The Presidential address seems a superfluous exercise

The question arises because, in his customary Presidential Address the other day, Mr.Kovind listed the aims and achievements of “my government.”

The Presidential address seems a superfluous exercise
The Presidential address seems a superfluous exercise

The text of the Presidential address is quite long and has so many facts and figures. It simply cannot be expected to be written by anyone except the Prime Minister’s Office.

Is the ruling Government of India the government of Narendra Modi or is it the government of Ram Nath Kovind, the President of India?

The question arises because, in his customary Presidential Address the other day, Mr.Kovind listed the aims and achievements of “my government.”

Consider that he didn’t even contest for a seat in the Lok Sabha; nor did he campaign for the ultimate winning party.  So how does Modi’s government became Kovind’s government? It would have been better if the President had used “The incumbent national government” or “Prime Minister Modi’s government”; and the best would have been to say “Our people’s government.” But “My government”? No way. Incidentally, incidentally, whose government would have been included in his address if “his” old government had lost out to “his” new one?

The Opposition in the Parliament may have strong points of differentiation with the stated contents of the Address. So what? Nothing happens; things go on unchanged.

Am I quibbling over nothing? Or am I being ignorant?

Neither. People who are compulsive constitutionalists will jump to pounce on the above layman’s argument. They will retort point to Article 53(1) of the Constitution which says “The executive of the Union shall be vested in the President and shall be executed by him directly or through officers subordinate to him in accordance with the Constitution.” Yes, it is known that all executive power is vested in the President of India. The Council of Ministers headed by the Prime Minister aids and advises the President who exercises his powers in accordance with such advice.

Hence the belief among some that it is ok to say that the Modi government, is his (The President’s) government.

By the way, the text of the Presidential address is quite long and has so many facts and figures. It simply cannot be expected to be written by anyone except the Prime Minister’s Office. If at all, it may be vetted and polished a little by the President. As an example, the highlights of the President’s Address of 2019 are available here

Another issue is the importance given to the President’s Address. The TV Channels show it in full — from the President descending ever so slowly from the steps of Rashtrapati Bhavan to his Mercedes car along with his cavalier force parading a big batch of handsome horses. This time around, the entire event took one hour and a little more, including the President’s reading “his” address to all our Members of Parliament sitting ever so solemnly in the Central House of Parliament. The other sounds in that one hour were the bugling of the Cavaliers, the rhythm of the horses’ hooves, the occasional table thumping by members, and the summary of the address read out by our Vice-President in his stentorian voice. There was, of course, the playing of our national anthem that always leads to a swell in the throat of the audience.

It is our Constitution which, I think, raises the halo of the President’s Address. Article 87 provides two instances when the President specially addresses both Houses of Parliament. The President of India addresses both the Rajya Sabha and the Lok Sabha at the beginning of the first Session after each general election when the reconstituted lower house meets for the first time. The President also addresses both the houses at the beginning of the first session of each year.

To my way of thinking, the above glorification smacks of British royalty. Wikipedia cites B. R. Ambedkar, the architect of our Constitution on this issue.  “Under the draft constitution, the President occupies the same position as the King under the English Constitution. He is the head of the state but not of the Executive. He represents the Nation but does not rule the Nation. He is the symbol of the Nation. His place in the administration is that of a ceremonial device on a seal by which the nation’s decisions are made known.”

Will tell you more about the royal treatment gets such as a monthly salary of Rs. 5 lakhs, an Indian airline and a helicopter run by the Indian Air Force, three retreat holiday centres, a humongous annual budget for upkeep. Reading it makes one feel sad that, in a socialist republic, we have a Royal head of state lives hidden away from the parents who have lost hundreds of children because of Encephalitis, and, oh, so many such tragic events.

All that is done after the President’s Address is a motion of thanks to him. The Opposition in the Parliament may have strong points of differentiation with the stated contents of the Address. So what? Nothing happens; things go on unchanged. The Address is perhaps filed — for historians and researchers.

Should we not then do something about that truth? Can we at all do nothing about it? At least think about it please…

Note:
1. Text in Blue points to additional data on the topic.
2. The views expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of PGurus.

Arvind Lavakare

Arvind Lavakare has been a freelance writer since 1957. He has written and spoken on sports on radio and TV. He currently writes on political issues regularly. His writings include a book on Article 370 of the Indian Constitution.

His freelancing career began in "The Times of India" with a sports article published when he was a month shy of 20 years of age. He was also a regular political affairs columnist first for rediff.com for five years or so and then shifted to sify.com. He also wrote extensively for niticentral.com "till it stopped publication."

4 COMMENTS

  1. A WELL THOUGHT OUT COMMENT FROM A WIDELY RESOPECTED COMMENTATOR. This is a point to be pondered seriously by the political and social leaders of the country. Should we have a President when there is the democratically elected Prime Minister who heads the government? Similatly should we have the post of governors and the palatial Raj Bhavans which swallow another fortune from the public exchequer? Should we have Republic Day Parade, Beating the Retreat and other such ceremonies which are all the continuation f the colonial customs? You are the right person to initiate discussion on this topic. I fully comprehend your concern and dilemma over the wastage of money, men and materials for maintaining the colonial style customs. Looking forward to your reaction/reply

  2. As Shivenk Verma has commented above, President Mukherjee mat well have also said “my Government”were he to deliver the 2019 President’s Address. However, my conclusion in the article is what I had hoped readers like you would take note of. To repeat, that point is : Can we do something to entirely change the current “President’s Address” system so as to make it really meaningful for the Members of Parliament as well as the public at large.

  3. Pranab Mukherjee also used to say my government when Modi was PM. So it is no point to ask what would have happened if his party lost in 2019. I am sure there are much more important issues than this

  4. Author’s attempt is to exhibit his ‘intellect’. The inteligent text he has adopted, makes one feel, as if this has happened for the first time.

    The PM has to hanged for healthcare mess in Bihar, he is expected to comment on every single thing on every street of this cast nation. It is not enough that he makes policies, plans, monitors execution. No, that is not enough, just hang him, abuse him each time.

    How many times did you do this before 2014? Or was it all Rosy Rosy before.

    Don’t hide behind your theoretical fabrication to justify. It is just an irresponsible, article written with chosen pieces out of context, making biased comments.

    Come back with constructive criticism, that’s welcome in a democracy. No more nitpicking for fun or fame.

    We have miles to go as a nation. Join hands to create better future. Unfounded insane political notions have destroyed many opportunities for India.

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