As we get ready to bid adieu to this leap year which was historical in several ways we stare at 2017, which is certain to throw several surprises our way. In the middle of the year India will witness a change of guard in its Presidency. Pranab Mukherjee’s five-year term will come to an end and so also will the second term of Vice President Hamid Ansari. Hectic public relations outreach will start taking place soon after the elections in Uttar Pradesh and Punjab are completed. In fact, the results in these two states will determine who the next President maybe. There are several men and women who would certainly love to serve the country from the majestic Rashtrapati Bhavan. There have been a few names doing the rounds for some time and here is a comprehensive list of 16 people who make the cut at the end of 2016 for the country’s largely ceremonial top Public Relations job.
- Lal Krishna Advani – The founder of the BJP and once a political heavyweight will turn 90 in November. His two attempts to become Prime Minister failed. If Modi has his way, this could be a consolation prize.
- Murli Manohar Joshi – Another stalwart of the ruling party is in his early 80s. He made way for Narendra Modi to contest from Varanasi in 2014 and this could be his reward.
- Rajnath Singh – This former CM of Uttar Pradesh was the BJP President who announced Narendra Modi’s name as PM candidate. This could be Modi’s time to pay back the 65-year-old.
- Mulayam Singh Yadav – Having made unsuccessful bids to be Prime Minister, this 77-year-old mastermind of many third front coalitions could be the front runner should his party retain power in the state.
- Sharad Pawar – Another man who hankered to be PM on several occasions is now 76. Don’t be surprised if he is projected as the unanimous candidate of the opposition.
- Najeeb Jung – The controversial Lt. Governor of Delhi who recently resigned could make a comeback as the minority face in the middle of 2017. At 65 he has age on his side.
- Amitabh Bachchan – The 74-year-old superstar could be a welcome surprise and a refreshing change after two old school Presidents. He would bring a different aura to the office.
- N R Narayanmurthy – The only possibility from south of the Vindhyas is the IT czar who would make for an interesting choice. At age 70 he has the potential to inspire change.
The eight women probables are all well qualified but may seem like lightweights to the current dispensation.
- Najma Heptullah – She seems to be a frontrunner to one of the two positions. For all you know she maybe just enjoying the cooling off period. She has all three things – gender, religion, pedigree going for her.
- Margaret Alva – Again, the tallest woman leader from the south who is alive and has the right experience for one of the two jobs. She will be the real dark horse.
- Anandiben Patel – She is a Modi favourite and was handed the CM’ job in Gujarat when he became Prime Minister. This could be her next foray into the big league.
- Sumitra Mahajan – The current Lok Sabha speaker is certainly in the running for one of the two offices. However, only time will tell if she will be relived from her current role.
- Draupadi Murmu – The Oriya politician who is currently Jharkhand Governor could end up being the first tribal to hold one of the two offices.
- Maneka Gandhi – The minister-animal rights activist could be a potential candidate for one of the two jobs in order to snub the current Congress dispensation.
- Kirron Kher – This actor and her husband Anupam are both sure shot candidates for one of the two top jobs but are certainly not front runners.
- Sushma Swaraj – Highly unlikely to be relieved from the cabinet. Also, given her current health condition she may not be up to it but you never know how innovative and disruptive the government can be.
- Ratan Tata – Highly unlikely but one can never say as this name has emerged on social media as a possible choice. However, a lot depends on who takes charge as Chairman at the Tata Group.
The run up to the job is a large Public Relations exercise. The job itself involves a lot of Public Relations. I will be really surprised if the next President is someone from outside the list. Prakash Singh Badal, E Sreedharan and Hamid Ansari would have made it to the list if we were to choose 20. But it’s 2017 so we stuck to 17.