Saturday, 24 June 2017

Kovind and Meira Kumar – A Tale of Two Dalits

We have two individuals wanting to become the next Indian President, India's Constitutional head of state.  One is favoured by the ruling BJP-led NDA and the other by a seventeen-party Opposition headed by the Congress.  Obviously Mr Ram Nath Kovind goes well with his principal supporter, the BJP, as Ms Meira Kumar will suit her proposing Opposition parties if they were governing India as a coalition.  That is fine.  After all, the President mostly plays a nominal role, and any prime minister likes to see someone compatible with him occupy that post.

By now everyone is aware that both Kovind and Meira Kumar are Dalits. He belongs to the BJP and she, to the Congress - both long-timers in their parties.  Neither of them ill-fits the office of President, but with more guaranteed votes Kovind should win. This far it is simple. Then, are there any troubling issues?  Yes, there are some to talk about.

Our politicians are keen to project a Dalit as our next President, banking surely on his or her Dalit identity more than the candidate's individual merits.  When the BJP fielded Kovind, immediate comments arose widely, and rightly, that the party had surprised and jolted the Opposition. Why? Was it because Kovind was such a towering personality in public life with an all-India appeal, whom the Opposition felt compelled to embrace shelving their plans for a contest? Not that way.
Parties opposing the BJP were rattled for this reason.  All political parties wish to be seen as the guardian angel and protector of India's harassed Dalits – though they are not acting that way.  When the ruling BJP unveiled a Dalit candidate for President, the seventeen rival parties which least anticipated that move were confused about their reaction.  Should they welcome that candidate or denounce him like they might do with any non-Dalit contestant?  Finally, they did their best by putting up Meira Kumar, another Dalit, to be elected President.  Since they cannot easily justify rejecting a Dalit Kovind, a leader of the Opposition parties cleverly explained their gearing up against Kovind as an 'ideological battle', whatever he wished to mean.

Probably the BJP too tactfully opted for Kovind so they could leave the Opposition in shock and disarray for a while, and ensure support for their candidate in some doubtful quarters.  Parties arrayed against the BJP have retaliated by proposing Meira Kumar as a contender - a Dalit to blunt the edge of an opposing Dalit. In effect, they are launching a rocket to neutralize a similar enemy rocket coming at them.  That is all right, but surely they are not acting in the cause of their rocket as they claim.

As a nation, we can't take pride in phony wars of political parties that ride on the back of a Dalit purely for promoting their stance or staying afloat in political combats.  In the present scenario, Meira Kumar is a respectable politician, a former Lok Sabha member and a former speaker of that House. She would fill the office of President well enough for normal Presidential duties.  But Kovind, with his varied background and experience in the political field, will do equally well in that position, though he is less known to the public. You won't expect him, as President, to give pin-pricks and anxious moments to the NDA government, while no one can be sure about Meira Kumar's inclinations if she now enters that office. Further, projected by the NDA, Kovind has the numbers behind him, and Meira Kumar knows this.  She should know too that she is pitted against Kovind so the Opposition may assert they backed a Dalit in the Presidential race, rather than leave all credit to the BJP for doing so.  So it is a pretentious battle. When a seventeen-party Opposition that has presence from Kashmir to Kanyakumari engages in it, you know how far the malady of mock sympathy has spread.

Does it mean the Opposition should have chosen a non-Dalit to fight Kovind? No, that is not the point. Whoever began it, the game around Dalits has got well-set in Indian politics. Almost every party plays the game.  Real and well-meaning efforts in the political sphere to stand with and uplift Dalits are ineffectively few and rare.  It is also a complex difficult task.  Special legal measures devised for this purpose were not well thought out and they backfire more.  Anyhow, at the practical level the seventeen parties which have jointly put up Meira Kumar cannot take any blame for their selection, especially when the BJP first named a Dalit for President. If the Opposition had first announced Meira Kumar and the BJP had next come up with Kovind, you cannot fault that party either. But – never mind this repetition – any elected government that needs to work with a President must look for a functionary they could comfortably talk to and deal with.  Here Kovind scores over Meira Kumar, as she knows.

       With  all  this,  the seventeen  Opposition parties have, by personal example, sent out an unintentional good message to all Indians.  One has to be quite alert to sense that message. Want to know what it is?

According to the seventeen parties, Kovind cannot do well as President.  He is of course a Dalit and a lawyer, and had been twice elected to the Rajya Sabha.  He has also been the governor of Bihar for twenty-two months, and has been applauded for his role as governor - by the state chief minister who is a key ally of the Congress. The seventeen parties will further know that Kovind has done appreciable charity work, holds a clean reputation and has faced no corruption charges in his public life.  Still, the seventeen parties consider Kovind as just not good enough to be elected President. They could be right or wrong, but the message they give out is sound and strong.  This is their message: "In any election, never look at a candidate's caste, this or that, Dalit or non-Dalit. Vote the contestant if he or she best fits the job among those running, else turn away from that individual. That's what our party MLA's and MP's will aim to do when voting India’s next President. Dear fellow Indians, just go by the principle of our appeal - whether we are right or not in working our principle!" Marvellous, isn't it?

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Copyright © R. Veera Raghavan 2017


  1. 'Scheduled Caste' is a genuine policy by the colonial government. "Harijan' was a political mantra. 'Dalit' is a slogan and shenanigan.

  2. Whoever from the present dispensation at the center is Anti Indian, and anti Hindu. They are known for anti feminism.
    Though sure to win, it is the misfortune of the nation.

  3. It seems the closing para a joke on opposition parties? The choice of Meira Kumar against Kovind by the opposition is solely based on hey dalit caste. This is not to say she is not qualified but that is not what the opposition looked for. Their sole intention in the presidential election has been to corner bjp with their show of strength rather than any concern for choosing a meritorious candidate. By not picking a candidate first they lost that opportunity. They counted on bjp to make a choice they could question bite habe landed themselves in a corner. If this is their political acumen in their fight against Shah-Modi, they can as well not bother to contest 2019 parliamentary elections.

    1. In nominating their presidential candidates, it is a 'cat and mouse' game between NDA and the Opposition. NDA went to Sonia indicating that it was willing to let the Opposition set the ball in motion. It was the golden opportunity for Sonia to seize the opportunity offered, take the initiative and prove her credential as the well-wisher of Dalits as she must have known that her candidate was almost bound to lose. But she failed to undetstand the situation in which the Opposition is placed. Having failed to prove her credentials, now it is all mockery on the part of the Opposition led by Sonia to field Meira Kumar. In the political acumen too the Opposition is defeated in their own game by the NDA. Suppose, Meira Kumar was first fielded by the Opposition; Kovind would have been of a lesser merit - just to oppose her. But now it is other way round. Politics is a game of not only witty words but also of witty moves.

  4. Meira Kumar was known before because she was a speaker. Otherwise she was equally unpopular like Kovind. Anycase it's the fate of this country that castism takes priority cleandestinely though both parties speak against castism.

  5. This election is not about the next president. It is a dress rehearsal for 2019 general elections. The opposition did not unite on choice of Meira Kuamar as a candidate with the idea of winning. It is to demonstrate that they can get together when the chips are down and unite against BJP. BJP's only chance in 2019 to have a divided opposition. If they join together, BJP will not get more than 150 seats. This was the point at issue in the meet at Guntur. They have shown that they can put their differences asidd and work together when it matters. Unless BJP can wean away Nitish Kumar and a few other local leaders, their re-election two years later is in trouble. I guess BJP top echelons are worried now.

  6. To me the message that these seventeen opposition parties - in deploying Meira Kumar as their presidential candidate - give to ordinary Indians like me is this: "We will not allow Modi the pleasure of a unanimously elected President, which he wants to instal for a cohesive government of India."

  7. In a more lighter vein Meira Kumar should not have confirmed against Kovind

    Hey Meets Yeh Kovind hai. Kyo daude chile ayee. Yeh Govind naheen

  8. Well said sir. As you brought out, the message is clear. Regards.

  9. I like your well-reasoned writing. But I don't believe even for a minute the proclamation:"In any election, never look at a candidate's caste, this or that, Dalit or non-Dalit. Vote the contestant if he or she best fits the job among those running, else turn away from that individual. That's what our party MLA's and MP's will aim to do when voting India’s next President. Dear fellow Indians, just go by the principle of our appeal - whether we are right or not in working our principle!" It is hogwash as they would say in US.

  10. An objective viewpoint. What I don't understand is, how Meira Kumar thought it possible to change the course of the current polity on her own, disregarding the Prime Minister and the entire Cabinet and the entire ruling alliance, when she vociferously pointed out what the "injustices" under the present dispensation.