Former President R Venkataraman passes away

R Venkataraman

A copybook president, R Venkataraman skilfully guided the country through a testing period of coalition politics in its nascent days that saw three prime ministers in two years.

Known for dignity and fairplay, Ramaswamy Venkataraman, popularly known as RV, will go down in history as the President who had the distinction of working with four prime ministers, appointing three of them--V P Singh, Chandrashekhar and P V Narasimha Rao-- during his five-year term.

He was chosen for the top post when late Rajiv Gandhi was the prime minister but some comments made by him a decade ago at the height of BJP's ascendancy in national politics earned him the wrath of Congress.

Elevated from Vice Presidency, Venkataraman succeeded Zail Singh, who had given some anxious moments to Rajiv Gandhi with reported threats of dismissing the government.

The stint of Venkataraman, the country's eighth President who held office from July 25, 1987, coincided with the period when the Indian electorate threw up a fractured mandate and politically the country was yet to accept coalition governments as a means of governance.

A lawyer by profession and an intellectual, Venkataraman, a die-hard Congressman from Tamil Nadu did have a testing time as never before the tenure of an Indian President been so eventful, thorny and also challenging.

The trying times demanded RV's decisions on a gamut of tricky constitutional and political issues-- Sri Lankan crisis, Bofors Gun deal, assassination of Rajiv Gandhi, Stock Scam and the Defamation Bill.

Steeped in the Gandhi-Nehru tradition, Venkataraman had propounded the theory that the President in the Indian context was like the 'emergency light' which automatically came on when the normal flow of power was broken and went out after normal working was restored.

Venkataraman had also made a conscious suggestion for establishing a national government during a fractured verdict.

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