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Presidential Poll: Many Prefer Kerala Guv

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By Suresh Unnithan

Thiruvananthapuram : With the Election Commission of India notifying the schedule for electing the 16th president of India both the ruling and opposition camps are engaged in hot discussions on prospective candidates for the highest post of the Republic.

The speculations are progressing on prospective candidates for presidential poll and a tweet from AAP MLA Somnath Bharti last week has excited many, both in the ruling and opposition camps. Asserting that the incumbent Kerala Governor Arif Mohammad Khan was a “strong contender” for the post Bharti tweeted ““Learnt from a credible source that Janab Arif Mohammad Khan, present Governor of Kerala, is a strong contender for president of India. It’s believable in view of steps [email protected] Ji is taking to counter anti-India narrative, getting built across the world because of fringies.”

Many critics of the BJP believe “though Arif Mohammad Khan is within the saffron brigade, he is not yet saffronised.  Khan properly maintains his secular credentials and hopefully he will never compromise his standards and ethics for posts and positions.” 

“As the governor of the state he might have signed certain controversial decisions of the Kerala government. That was to avoid any constitutional or administrative dilemma and should not be taken as any compromise.”

“Khan is a true national who never compromised his ideals. For example, he quit from the invincible Rajiv Gandhi Cabinet in 1986 protesting the government’s appeasement policy in the Shah Bano case.  Khan has been a hardcore critic of minority appeasement and Islamic radicalism and  is well accepted as the voice of modernity among Muslims.”

“Khan’s three years stint in the Kerala Rajbhavan earned him the reputation of a proactive people’s governor,” said a senior journalist who has been closely monitoring Kerala politics for over four decades. “Despite his political affiliation, Khan never used his position and power to heckle the incumbent Left Government. In fact, as the governor he had lauded many of the innovative and pro-people initiatives of the government in public    However; he has also been seen opposing contentious decisions of the Administration.  We all feel, as the Head of the State, Khan uses his powers judiciously from within the constitution and never breach the Lakshman Rekha.”

According to a retired civil servant Arif Mohammad Khan “has assimilated Kerala culture and tradition. Unlike many of his predecessors, Khan has adapted to the Kerala style of attire. He prefers to appear in mundu (a single dhothi) even during official functions. This explains his affinity towards culture and tradition.”

No doubt, Khan is knowledgeable, both politically and academically.  He is people friendly and has proved his credentials beyond doubt in administration holding ministerial positions in multiple cabinets. As an elected representative, both in the assembly and parliament he did excel.

Born on 18 November 1951 in   Bulandshahr, Uttar Pradesh Arif Mohammed Khan was received his B.A (Hons) form Aligarh Muslim University (1972-73) and LLB from Lucknow University, Uttar Pradesh (1977).

Khan started his political career as a student leader and was elected General Secretary of the Aligarh Muslim University Students’ Union during 1972-73 and President during 1973-74. He was elected to the UP Legislative Assembly in 1977 at a young age of 26, from the Siyana constituency, Bulandshahar.  Later Khan was elected to the seventh Lok Sabha from Kanpur in 1980 and represented Bahraich parliamentary constituency during the 8th, 9th and 12th Lok Sabha.

In different Union cabinets Khan had held significant portfolios Energy and Civil Aviation during 1989- 90. Earlier, he had also served as Deputy Minister, Information and Broadcasting (1982-83) and Union Minister of State, holding portfolios such as Agriculture (1983-84), Energy (1984 and 1985-86), Industry and Company Affairs (1984-85) and Home Affairs (1985).

Khan is a qualified lawyer with ample understanding of the judiciary and an avid student of history.  In the words of an octogenarian senior political pundit in Delhi who has been critically observing Indian politics from Nehruvian days says “Khan belongs to a nearly extinct species of Politicians. He does not compromise on human values.  He is an enlightened Indian with in depth knowledge on religion and history.  Unlike many opportunists, his thoughts are universal.

It is true, for Khan “more than religion, Ram is the civilization and cultural icon of India. Lord Ram is an Ideal, worth emulating.”

A senior leader of the BJP from Delhi who prefers anonymity says “Arif Mohammad Khan could be the right choice as Presidential candidate in the present context. He has practical understanding of the three vital features of Indian democracy- Legislature, executive and judiciary. He is a leader with high diplomatic skills which could come handy in sorting out any estranged foreign relations.   He is both people and media friendly.  Above all he is a caring human.”

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