PRESIDENTIAL POLLS

Is Kovind's nomination an attempt at caste politics?

PTI8_11_2016_000160B Projecting a dalit as the first citizen of India may help the NDA government | PTI

Ram Nath Kovind, the governor of Bihar and now the presidential candidate of the ruling NDA, seems to have been pulled out of the hat like the proverbial rabbit by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and BJP President Amit Shah. They have managed to surprise every political party and the media, even though the prime minister had shared the name as their choice with Congress president Sonia Gandhi and former PM Dr. Manmohan Singh.

“We informed the others,” said Shah.

Modi and Shah have taken the winds out of the anti-BJP parties' efforts to unite with the pretext of a common presidential candidate by presenting a dalit with attributes that they as well as the ruling party wants.

Yet, Kovind's name should not have come as a surprise. Twitterati found Kovind a dark horse three days ago. And over a fortnight ago, one of them tweeted that he was not just a dalit, but a “highly learned person. From RSS background”.

A two-time member of the Rajya Sabha (1994-2000 and 2000-2006), Kovind was a prominent lawyer, having been an advocate for the Central government in the past. He has addressed the UN, thus packing quite a bit into why he was chosen to succeed President Pranab Mukherjee to the Rashtrapati Bhavan.

It is generally believed that caste does not matter when we choose the man who will be the conscience keeper of political parties as well as the first keeper of the Constitution of India. So it does not matter that he is dalit. However, at a time when the dalits in Gujarat are protesting against the government, and there is unrest in Uttar Pradesh, projecting a dalit as the first citizen helps.

It is not yet clear as to whose idea it was to zero in on Kovind. But sources in the BJP say that it is “obvious that the governors and former governors are among the first lot to be considered”. And Kovind, said to be enjoying a good rapport with opposition parties – the ruling JD(U)-RJD and Congress in Bihar – would make his candidature difficult for opposition parties to oppose.

Kovind is the NDA candidate, and not just that of the BJP, Shah made it clear.

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