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HVK Archives: President's plan for interview on I-Day eve raises

President's plan for interview on I-Day eve raises - The Economics Times

Bharti Jain ()
August 13, 1998

Title: President's plan for interview on I-Day eve raises
eyebrows
Author: Bharti Jain
Publication: The Economics Times
Date: August 13, 1998

Rashtrapati Bhavan is surprised at the controversy over President
K R Narayanan's decision to take a break from the 48-year-old
convention by letting himself to be interviewed on the
Independence Day eve instead of delivering a televised address.

The President's office - which has dismissed the apprehensions
about the propriety of a titular head airing his individual views
as "unfounded" - today clarified that the interview of Mr
Narayanan with senior journalist N Ram was in no way a substitute
for the presidential address made every year on August 14. "'The
President will address the nation this year too, but from the
Central Hall of Parliament on August 15, said the presidential
staff.

Mr Narayanan's initiative allowing himself to be questioned on
national issues and policies instead of delivering the usual I-
Day eve address - which is also supposed to outline issues of
national importance - had raised a few eyebrows among the
political and legal class.

The grounds on which the move was questioned were:

Whether it was appropriate for the President to depart from a
tradition followed religiously by all his predecessors;

Whether it was in keeping with the functions/powers of the
President as defined by the Constitution; and

What would happen if the views expressed by the President in the
course of the interview turned out to be diametrically opposite
to those of the government of the day.

Voicing these apprehensions, senior Supreme Court lawyer P N
Lekhi had deemed it as "unfortunate" for a nominal head to break
a 48-year old convention by publicly airing his individual views
on national issues. "By agreeing to the I-Day eve interview, the
President has done what his stronger predecessors having
independent credentials - regardless of their disagreements with
the prime ministers of the day - did not dare to do," he pointed
out.

Renowned legal expert K K Venugopal, on the other hand, welcomed
Mr Narayanan's initiative saying that the August 14 interview
would only facilitate him in covering matters of current national
interest. "The President is bound to mouth the policies of the
government only when he addresses the joint session of
Parliament. I'm sure as an elder statesman, whatever he comments
on in the interview would be appropriate and his views would be
of great importance to the party in power at the Centre, " he
opined.

Senior politicians too have echoed Mr Venugopal's sentiments and
termed Mr Naryanan's initiative as a welcome break from the "dull
monologue" that the nation is subjected to every year on the I-
Day eve. According to a senior Congress leader, as in the
presidential addresses delivered all these years, Mr Narayanan
would touch upon national issues and policies in the interview.
"A dialogue would be more meaningful and informative and as a
result, reach out to many more people, " the veteran political
pointed out.

As for the fear that Mr Narayanan's responses to controversial
questions could embarrass the government, the Congress leader
expressed faith in the former's ability to handle uncomfortable
queries. "The President would take care not to speak about the
government's achievements and decisions. Instead, he would focus
on national issues, on which there is no scope of the government
holding a different view," he noted.

Rashtrapati Bhavan, on its part, also dismissed any such doubts
as "prejudging" Mr Narayanan's ability to handle controversial
questions. "He has been interviewed earlier and addressed
several public meetings where he has aired his views on national
issues like corruption and nuclear policy. So why is so much
noise being made about this interview?" wondered a member of the
presidential secretariat.


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