For the past few weeks, the papers have been full of news about candidates for India's next president, and none of it has been good. First there was talk of Home Minister Shivraj Patil being the UPA candidate. His claim was based on the same talent that got him the home minister's job: the ability to suck up to The Family. Then things came unstuck because allies didn't want Patil in Rashtrapatri Bhavan, at which some genius promtly replaced one Patil with another. Pratibha Patil's claim to the job appears to be based on the fact that she is a Congress party member, a woman, and a Shekhawat by marriage. It helps that she is also from Maharashtra, since it confuses the Shiv Sena. Diplomatic skills and political acumen are probably not her forte: her first widely reported pronouncement was about the Muslims imposing purdah in India. Since then, she has said nothing, and cartoonists have had a field day with images of her with a gag around her mouth.
She will probably win the presidential elections over Bhairon Singh Shekhawat, now that President Kalam has decided not to run. This will mean more control over the country's institutions for The Family and a new version of a 'goongi gudiya' in Rashtrapati Bhavan.
That does not bode well for democracy. It is unfortunate enough that the greatest and most important political party in India is one that cannot function without a Nehru-Gandhi at the helm. To have all the institutions of government in the service of The Family is to return once again to the age of empires.
In this situation, one can only hope that good sense will prevail, and a strong contender will emerge to take on The Family's protege.
Let's have Rajnikanth for president :)