For BJP, Kovind is the right man at right time

Source: The Hitavada      Date: 28 Jun 2017 09:25:20



By Rashmi Saksena,

WHEN Ram Nath Kovind made his maiden speech in the Rajya Sabha, he received a note from Dr Najma Heptulla then the Deputy Speaker of the Upper House. The scribbled congratulatory message from the Chair read “…you will make a good parliamentarian”. More recently when Kovind was picked to be the NDA nominee for the 2017 presidential election he was again congratulated by Heptulla, now the Governor of Manipur. He disclosed that he had preserved her earlier note and was promptly told by Heptulla that she thought he would make a good President too.

The importance of Kovind in BJP’s scheme of things goes well beyond his oratory skills and a good command over the English language. The unassuming Kovind, a non-Jatav Dalit leader from Uttar Pradesh has always kept a low profile and most remember him for the various programmes he organised as the head of the Scheduled Caste Cell at the BJP party office in Delhi. It is for this reason that he is the perfect fit for the BJP’s ongoing SC outreach initiatives aimed at expanding its support base.

In this context Kovind is for the BJP the right man at the right time. It is obvious that the BJP has been assiduously wooing the SC population since it overwhelming success in the 2014 general elections. After the magnificent win, the likes of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his chief strategist BJP chief Amit Shah realised that there was an imperative need to enlarge its vote bank as they dream of life beyond the 2019 polls. The 2014 victory which saw the BJP vote share soar by more than double indicated that the BJP had found acceptance by many more than its far traditional voters. The read was that the BJP known as an upper caste had this time round bagged Dalit votes too.

The BJP sent 40 Dalits to the LS. The top leadership realised that to keep up the momentum and in fact build on it their Party would now have to work at creating and enlarging a support base which it could sustain on a long term basis.

The biggest handicap for them in this endeavor is the fact that the BJP has been unsuccessful in getting the Muslims, who constitute 20 per cent of the electoral into its fold. With this huge chunk out of its reach, political sagacity dictated that the BJP address itself to the SC block that is about 16.6 pc of the population. It is pertinent to string together a number of BJP moves to catch a glimpse of the whole Dalit vote catching exercise. The most telling is the way the BJP as well as the Modi Govt went all hog to make Dr B.R.Ambekar their very own. The BJP, the Centre as well as the RSS cashed with great success his 125th birth anniversary. Before that Amit Shah made gestures loaded with symbolism when he reached out to the Dalits in Maharashtra via the RPI(A) and the dalits in Bihar via Mahadalit leader Jitan Manjhi. BJP leaders led by Amit Shah have been breaking bread with Dalits in their homes in UP and in Telangana.

With the selection of Kovind, the BJP has killed two birds with one stone.

Not only has it sent a message to the Dalit population but also left the Opposition parties gaping. Most importantly it has managed to throw the Opposition unity into disarray with Chief Minister Nitish Kumar openly breaking ranks with the Opposition parties and pledging the JD (U) support to Kovind instead of Meira Kumar, Bihar’s dalit daughter, the combined Opposition candidate for the top post. Nitish understandably has a soft corner for Kovind who has been Bihar Governor. The non NDA constituents favoring Kovind are JD (U), AIADMK, BJD, TRS and YSRCP.

It is obvious that the numbers are heavily stacked in favour of the NDA choice and Kovind will sail through to become the second Dalit President of India. The first was Congress pick K.R. Narayanan (1997). Kovind may well be low profile and a known docile as well as extremely polite man but it has to been seem how much he will be willing to tow the BJP line. After his nomination he in a most dignified manner instead of singing praise of the BJP or RSS said he would as a duty uphold the Constitution of India.

Meira Kumar contesting against Kovind will notch two credits. The first she has become the face of a symbolic fight by the Opposition parties and the second that she has achieved a step more than her father Jagjivan Ram who was Indira Gandhi’s choice (1969) for President. But her proposal was outvoted by Congressmen and V V Giri became the official candidate. Meira Kumar is the opposition combines official candidate in the 2017 presidential elections to be held on July 17. Votes will be counted on July 20.