Opposition in a dilemma over BJP’s Dalit presidential pick

Written by June 19, 2017 21:35

Prime Minister Narendra Modi and BJP national president Amit Shah today sprang a perfect surprise by choosing Ram Nath Kovind as National Democratic Alliance (NDA) presidential nominee. Shah announced Kovind’s candidature and put at rest all the speculations which were on peak in the media.

No section of the media had even an inkling of Kovind’s name. Amit Shah held a press conference after the BJP parliamentary board meeting and simply announced the name of Kovind as NDA presidential candidate, stunning all political parties in opposition.

There is no denying that it is yet another masterstroke by Narendra Modi and Amit Shah, which has palpably stumped the opposition parties to a great extent. Congress leader Ghulam Nabi Azad came out in front of media and said that the BJP has announced its presidential nominee without consulting opposition.

What he was suggesting was that the Congress was taken aback by the BJP making a Dalit leader from Uttar Pradesh as its presidential nominee. This is the reason he could not openly say that the Congress would not support him. This speaks volumes about the Congress being in a dilemma over Kovind’s candidature.

Ramvilas Paswan and Jitan Ram Manjhi have already made a statement saying that those who opposed Kovind in presidential race will be dubbed as anti-Dalit. It shows that though the BJP does not want to be seen as playing Dalit card, its allies have been given liberty to make political comments like this.

The Congress has go the political message and will, therefore, be looking for a counter to this. One this is certain that by choosing a Dalit as its presidential candidate, BJP has put the Congress and other non-NDA parties in a dilemma.

All the parties are finding it difficult to air their opposition to Kovind and this gives BJP confidence immense confidence that the Opposition will split on the choice of Kovind, with many of the non-NDA parties supporting Bihar governor. Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar has hinted at taking a different stand in the Opposition camp, as he said that he is personally happy that his state governor has been made presidential nominee by the BJP.

Talking to reporters, Nitish Kumar after meeting Kovind soon after the news broke lauded the governor profusely. Remember, Nitish had skipped the lunch hosted by Sonia Gandhi for opposition party leaders in a show of solidarity of opposition parties on the presidential elections. At the same time, Nitish had joined Prime Minister Modi on the lunch in national capital.

There is belief in the BJP camp that Samajwadi Party and Bahujan Samaj Party would support Kovind as he hails from Uttar Pradesh. What is of political significance is the fact that Kovind is the only dalit leader from north India who could be president of India. Before him, the only dalit leader to have become president was KR Narayanan, who was from south India.

Therefore, the parties doing politics in north India may go for Kovind. Similarly, AIADMK and BJD will have no difficulty in extending support to BJP’s pick. YSRCP from Andhra Pradesh has also hinted at supporting Kovind. Mamata Banerjee’s utterances have proved that she is stunned by the BJP’s decision on its presidential pick.

TRS chief K Chandrasekhar Rao has already extended his party’s support to Kovind when he was contacted by PM Modi. Modi is also talking for some other leaders seeking support for a dalit leader. Shiv Sena, which was a reluctant partner in NDA, has agreed to go with the BJP’s choice of presidential nominee.

PM Modi has struck the right chord by tweeting that Kovind  is from humble background and is a strong voice of poor. PM Modi has made it a point not to be seen as playing dalit card. Kovind’s non-controversial and discipline leader image is something that BJP is relying on. What BJP is trying to send out message that Ram Nath Kovind is presidential pick not only because of his being a dalit. He encompasses several qualities that make him fit for being sent to Raisina Hills.