Source: The Hitavada      Date: 21 Jul 2017 11:07:28

THERE is so much halo around the office of the President of India that the election to the highest post in the land is watched with keenness. So also this time, though the contest between Mr. Ram Nath Kovind and Ms. Meira Kumar was almost a one-sided affair. The keenness surrounding the election was never lost, neither among the contesting parties, nor among the people of the country. The spread and expanse of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the solidity in the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) through the length and breadth of the country had ensured almost a cakewalk for the NDA candidate Mr. Kovind to take over from outgoing President Mr. Pranab Kumar Mukherjee. Mr. Kovind succeeds a person with astute political experience and knowledge.

Though outgoing President Mr. Mukherjee was a quintessential Congress veteran, his allegiance to that party did not have any reflection on the way in which he dealt with the NDA Government led by the BJP. Hence there were hardly any occasions of confrontation between the President and the NDA Government or the Prime Minister. There may have been differences of perception on issues of national importance between the Government and the President, but they never became a matter of public discussion or debate. Such was the maturity that both sides displayed and maintained mutual dignity and honour. That is the hallmark of the relations between the President of the country and the incumbent Government.

When Mr. Kovind assumes office as the 14th President of the country, he will inherit this rich legacy of mutual respect and trust. On ideological front he may not have much to bother about as the Government and he will be on the same page. But the office of the President of India envisages that he keeps aside the baggage of his former party allegiance and assumes the role of the custodian of the country’s Constitution and spiritual inheritance. Mr. Kovind is an experienced Parliamentarian and is well versed with the level of relations that have to be maintained between the President and the Government.

Mr. Kovind represents a critical psycho-social segment of the Indian society. This segment has suffered -- not just the social injustice but also a stupendous social churning -- and is emerging from a period of darkness into a zone of light. This process has been going on for decades now. Many people belonging to this segment -- the Dalits -- have risen to great heights and have made signal contribution to the cause of equality in totality. From the coveted position of President, Mr. Kovind will now lead from the front this collective Indian endeavour to offer level playing field to all segments of the larger society.

Prime Minister Mr. Narendra Modi, thus, started directing the national agenda in a smart manner by opting for man of the qualities of Mr. Ram Nath Kovind. By so doing, the Prime Minister also made it an imperative for Opposition parties to choose Mrs. Meira Kumar as their presidential candidate. Thus, India saw a great spectacle of a contest between two persons who represented one single paradigm.

Some may wish to treat Mr. Kovind’s victory as the success of numbers which the ruling NDA could muster so comfortably. For our part, we would like to go beyond the numbers and delve into the realm of the need of continued effort to achieve better and finer social justice. We would insist that as Mr. Kovind assumes office of President of India, the country will step up to the next level of the philosophy of equality. For, his move into the Rashtrapati Bhavan signals the opening of yet another locked closed door that would unlock a new wave of creativity of the deprived sections of the society. In other words, Mr. Kovind now symbolises the rise of a new paradigm in Indian social discourse.

Mr. Kovind’s elevation to presidency has yet another message as well for the whole country: It is time we got over political dividing lines and unite for a finer and more comprehensive social agenda. It is time the Indian nation stood together to sort out many a tough challenge that confronts the people. True, the President’s election has a political cladding. Yet it is also equally true that the President is everybody’s representative in the Rashtrapati Bhavan. So, as Mr. Kovind moves into the Rashtrapati Bhavan, the political community must get over the vagaries of the numbers game it just played and get engaged in fulfillment of the larger national agenda.

Fortunately, in the past three years, Indian economy has been experiencing a steeply rising curve of growth. No matter the differences among parties, India’s political narrative, too, has acquired a halo of its own -- through its secular politics and unitary spirit. As India stands at the doorstep of a possible global superpower status in the next couple of decades, it is time the country and its political community stood strongly behind its President whose personality has survived the baptism by fire. That would grant India a signature none could ever think of erasing. As for Mr. Kovind, he has the unique opportunity to drive the national agenda as President.

True, in Indian scheme of things, the President has a well-defined role in which digressions are rarely possible. Yet, India has had some Presidents who led from the front the great activity of social change. We have had personages of eminence of Dr. Rajendra Prasad, Dr. S. Radhakrishnan, Dr. Zakir Hussain, Dr. A.P.J. Abdul Kalam to show the way.
And now, we have Mr. Ram Nath Kovind, our new President.