Farm minister Sharad Pawar suggested on Sunday that a “non-political person” should be made the next President of India. The government should take that as a sensible piece of advice, especially given the defeats suffered in recent assembly elections in Uttar Pradesh and elsewhere. Smaller regional parties can’t wait to turn the presidential election into a dry run for the 2014 general election. What better way to test their chances than this contest for a largely ceremonial but high-profile post by offering their strategic backing in a way that’s most advantageous to themselves?
One way in which the ruling party could pre-empt them is by choosing someone based purely on merit. While this poses the risk of polarizing public opinion nationwide, the right choice could also have a unifying effect, even in a country that’s defined by narrow self-interest. Having said that, this government isn’t exactly well known for making inspired choices.