The ruling Congress party coalition looks like it will at best limp its way to general elections in 2014, stung by a rash of corruption scandals that have tarnished Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s second term in office and led to a dismal performance in state assembly elections earlier this year.
Now the political establishment is abuzz about who will be the next president, a largely ceremonial post that comes open in July.
The incumbent by all accounts bears the hallmarks of the government she represents — ineffectual and damaged by accusations of corruption. Pratibha Devisingh Patil, whose tenure ends in July, was controversially allotted defence land to build a cosy retirement nest. With 12 trips overseas since taking over, she’s also racked up foreign travel bills that cost India more than 2 billion rupees ($39 million), the most by any Indian head of state.
Such lavishness has even led some to question the whole presidential institution within a parliamentary democracy. The president is the constitutional head but has limited powers, similar to that of the monarch in the United Kingdom, despite living in a 340-room palace that was once the British viceroy’s residence.