Dr P Pullarao
The surprise selection of Shri Ram Nath Kovind for the election of president of India caught everyone by surprise. Obviously, Ram Nath Kovind has been under consideration for quite some time. To divert attention of media and politicians away from Kovind’s name, other names like Jharkhand Governor Draupadi Murmu, some ministers and even the elders of the BJP were floated.
The BJP wanted to use the election of president of India to send a message politically . For that intention, the choice of Ram Nath Kovind is so obvious that it now looks brilliant and the right decision. As a governor of Bihar, Kovind earned great praise all around.
The choice obviously made by Prime Minster Narendra Modi and BJP President Amit Shah was political. Later analysis showed that Home Minister Rajnath Singh , who obviously knows Ram Nath Kovind for a long time projected him and then let Modi and Shah do the deciding.
The Congress Party had earlier selected Dalits, Backwards Classes and women as Rashtrapatis But there was no political dividend. Political dividends come when the choice is so great that the public feels moved. President Abdul Kallam obviously helped BJP greatly as it softened its image with all communities. But neither Dalit President K.R. Narayan or woman president Pratibha Patil brought any gains to the Congress party . Such political decisions only gave the Congress talking points in debates for a few days , but no votes.
Much earlier, Prime Minister Indira Gandhi in July, 1982 selected Giani Zail Singh a backward class Sikh as President. But that did not help in containing the separatist Khalistani crisis in Punjab nor did it get backward class votes for the Congress. On the contrary ,the Congress lost famously after Giani Zail Singh became President. Coincidentally, after 1982, serious regional anti-congress leaders like NTR in Andhra Pradesh and Ramakrishna Hegde in Karnataka defeated the Congress. There was no opposition to the Congress party in these 2 states earlier.
The selection of the President only means that some caste or religious section is happy for a few days. A political party can claim that it gave representation to some caste or religion . But there are usually no political dividends.
When selecting a President, a political party’s first worry is to ensure that the President does not become too independent and create problems for it. Indira Gandhi selected Giani Zail Singh because she thought he is totally loyal and great sycophant. Giani Zail Singh was Home Minster of India and he made a statement that if Indira Gandhi asked him to sweep the floors of her house, he would do so. . But strangely, after the death of Indira Gandhi, president Zail Singh became a great thorn in Rajiv Gandhi’s way and politics. There was a time when President Giani Zail Singh even wanted to dismiss Rajiv Gandhi as Prime Minister and call an opposition leader to be Prime minister. A loyalist became an enemny.
The BJP must have felt that Shri Ram Nath Kovind will not create surprises like Giani Zail Singh. In any event, the selection of Ram Nath Kovind for various reasons of caste and geography has created a positive buzz for the BJP in the country . Kovind seems to be extra-ordinarily qualified to be President. As a Governor, he was superb.
Right now, it is being seen as a great advantage for Modi and the BJP. Time will tell.
Dr P Pulla Rao is a Socio-political and Economic analyst