The offices of the President of India, and to a lesser degree the Vice-President, are much too lofty to be dragged into the quagmire of contemporary politics.

That, alas, happened even before the formal action got underway. While initially the line was that the BJP/NDA was in favour of a “consensus” candidate, the sights have now been lowered to talk of a “mutual” candidate, whatever that might mean.

Given the huge divide in the political establishment, it is apparent that whoever emerges from the complicated process of electing the President will have a difficult task elevating himself/herself to the nationwide acceptability desired of the Head of State.

It would be a suicidal over-simplification to say that the appointment is one of only ceremonial or decorative value ~ in times as troubled as the present the President plays the role of a father-figure, ensuring that the nation does not cast off the moorings enshrined in the spirit of the Constitution.

The election to Rashtrapati Bhawan must never be allowed to get bogged down in the no-holds-barred slugfests relished by our present leaders. Hence it is to be hoped against hope that the “consultations” in hand will not wind up further exacerbating the political divide.

There are already enough divisions on religious, caste and regional lines. The process has got off to a skewed start. Speaking on behalf the high-level panel the BJP set up to negotiate “across the aisle”, Mr M Venkaiah Nadiu made a point about the wishes of the people being respected ~ the very point he kept making during his unsuccessful stint as minister for parliamentary affairs.

It is clear that the intoxication with the electoral success of 2014, enhanced by state elections earlier this year, has not dissipated and Mr Naidu, and possibly his colleagues on the panel too, believe they have the mandate to send a person of their choice to the “palace on the hill.

Then why this charade of consultations etc? The NDA proudly avers it commands 48.6 per cent of the electoral college, it would avoid injecting cynicism into the equation by announcing the person of its choice ~ änd let others lick their wounds.

That choice, in all probability, has already been made and the formalities are likely to be completed before the Prime Minister leaves for the United States, so why not get the agony over with? BJP “sources” insist that the next President will be someone with ideological and philosophical affinity endorsed by the party’s alma mater.

So it is better to end speculative hypocrisy. That the Opposition is so fragmented it can, at best, strive to present a “joint-candidate” completes the sorry picture.

For no “non-professional politician” is likely to be lured into a scrap from which he/she cannot emerge with “honour intact”.

The days of “gentlemanly-contests” ended long, long ago.