Sadanand Dhume: The House of Nehru-Gandhi





Sadanand Dhume is a resident fellow at the American Enterprise Institute.

India will elect its 13th president on July 22, when votes cast earlier this week by about 5,000 national and state legislators are tallied. The almost certain winner is former finance minister Pranab Mukherjee, a career politician and the official candidate of the ruling Congress Party.

Though the largely ceremonial office carries little clout-the prime minister wields executive power-India's president is nonetheless the country's official head of state. Not surprisingly, the national media has giddily covered every twist and turn in Mukherjee's likely ascent to Rashtrapati Bhavan, the palatial 340-room estate completed in 1929 for the viceroy of British India. But nobody has paused to ask why India needs an elected president in the first place. Perhaps it's time the world's largest democracy considered a constitutional monarch instead.

Before dismissing the suggestion as ludicrous, consider its logic. A hereditary monarch provides the comfort of continuity against a backdrop of rapid economic and social change. The best ones also take over the brunt of ceremonial duties at both home and abroad, allowing the executive to focus on governance. And since they don't have to worry overly about faddish public opinion, monarchs are often better able to stand up for core national values such as pluralism and fair play than a career politician conditioned by reflexive attention to short term goals....



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