Sachin with wife Anjali and Rekha outside Parliament. Picture by Prem Singh
New Delhi, Aug. 8: One head of state, 14 governors, four chief ministers, four cabinet ministers and the chiefs of the three defence forces. Throw in a certain Sachin Tendulkar and one Rekha Ganeshan.
Isn’t such a formidable armada more than enough to overpower that unwelcome intruder called boredom?
Don’t be so sure. Not if you are Pranab Mukherjee, lately the President of India and the commander-in-chief of the Indian armed forces.
On a day Parliament witnessed the most pugnacious fight in recent memory, Mukherjee was advising Rekha and Tendulkar, rookie MPs and ageless stars in their respective fields, on the finer points of parliamentary propriety.
The professorial President did not forget to touch upon the Indian Constitution and the freedom struggle — indispensable ingredients in presidential conversations. The interaction lasted 20 minutes, according to the President’s press secretary Venu Rajamony.
Such an assignment must have been the equivalent of a drop for a thirsty beak as Mukherjee’s ministerial and political plates were always overflowing in his earlier roles.
With ample time on his hands now, the President and his secretariat are working towards bringing Rashtrapati Bhavan closer to the people.
He has launched a public portal where anyone can write to the President about any grievance or request. The complainant can track the status of his application also.
If need be, the complainant can also upload documents in PDF format.
“Ideally, the departments or ministries concerned are the right platform to lodge such complaints, but in case a person has exhausted all options and thinks that the issue needs to be brought to the President’s notice, he or she can write to him,” said a senior official of the President’s secretariat.
A digital link to the people in this age should hardly cause any ripple. Not if you consult the Constitution. “It is normal for a President to get complaints and then to forward it to respective departments. But to invite complaints is unprecedented and a departure from the usual practice,” constitutional expert Subhash Kashyap said.
An official communication from Rashtrapati Bhavan on the website said some of the “historical perspectives” of the earlier website have been retained. “Citizens can connect to the President directly by clicking the button ‘Write to the President’, which will take them directly to the help line portal,” the statement said.
The President has also made his Facebook debut. His speeches are uploaded on YouTube, too.
The website confirms what has been suspected all along: if American Presidents and wannabe Presidents kill time by kissing babies, Indian Presidents do so by receiving bouquets.
Mukherjee’s website showcases a slideshow featuring the acceptance of bouquets from several guests since he took over 15 days ago on July 25. The parade of the dignitaries — ranging from Fijian head of state Ratu Epeli Nailatikau to Madhya Pradesh chief minister Shivraj Singh Chauhan — stands out as the eye-catching feature.
If India wins more Olympic medals, be sure to catch the bouquets here soon.