In the next couple of months, the nation will undergo two very crucial elections—that of the President and Vice-President of India. While the President’s election will gain some coverage, mainly due to the political equations that will be formed where foes turn friends and vice versa, the Vice-Presidential election is likely to get muted coverage from the media.
However, the post of the Vice-President is one of the most crucial in Indian administration, despite it drawing flak from many quarters. It should be remembered that in addition to acting as the President, in his/her absence, the Vice-President is also the ex-officio chairperson of our upper house, the Rajya Sabha.
With such diversity, our founding fathers felt that a federal system is apt for India where the Rajya Sabha represents the interests of the various states. Therefore, the chairperson of the Rajya Sabha ought to be of impeccable character. Fortunately, thus far in our history, we have had extremely distinguished and dignified people who have held the office of the Vice-President.
This year too, one of the names doing the rounds for the possible contenders is Lt. Gen. Zameer Uddin Shah, who is currently the vice-chancellor of the prestigious Aligarh Muslim University. As a young officer, he served with valour during the 1971 war in the Longewala battle. He went onto serve India with distinction in many strife stricken areas. On numerous occasions, he led the armed forces in assisting the civil administration in quelling riots and ensured the regions return to normalcy at the earliest. In recognition of his stellar career spanning over four decades, he was awarded the Param Vishisht Seva Medal, the highest peace-time award for service of the most exceptional order.
Lt. Gen. Shah has extensive experience in the academic field too, having been an instructor at the Officers’ Training Academy, Chennai post the 1971 war. He later served as a member of the faculty of studies at the Army War College, Mhow. His other stints with academics include being the Chairman of the Board of Governors of the Sainik School, Purulia, and Chairman of the Management Committee at the Army Institute of Management, Kolkata. Prior to assuming charge as the Vice-Chancellor of the AMU, Lt. Gen. Shah was elevated to the Principal Bench of the Armed Forces Tribunal, New Delhi which gaining an in-depth understanding of judicial procedures.
He served as the defence attaché in Saudi Arabia during the 1990s and has extensively travelled across West Asia, South East Asia, Africa, Europe and the USA in various capacities whilst serving in the Indian defence forces, thus honing his rich diplomatic experience.
Blessed with an amiable and sanguine personality, he was immensely popular amongst his peers, juniors, students and society at large. With his insights into diverse fields like academics, judiciary, defence, management, diplomacy and foreign affairs in addition to being an apolitical person, he makes an ideal candidate for the office of the Vice-President. His administrative and diplomatic acumen would be of immense value as the Chairman of the Rajya Sabha has to deal with a multitude of such situations every day.
Lt. Gen. Shah has the right mix of civil-military-diplomatic competencies required of a Vice-President. Further, with an unblemished career of 40 years in the highly disciplined Indian Army, Lt. Gen. Shah would ensure that the dignity and tradition of propriety of the office of Vice-President is maintained. Rather than being driven my primordial loyalties and electoral equations, let’s hope our parliamentarians keep this in mind as they vote to elect the second highest office in India.