Modi stuns opposition time and again
Prime Minister Narendra Modi has always had something up his sleeve which has stunned the opposition, like last November's Demonetisation, or recently making Yogi Adityanath the chief minister of the crucial and most populous state of Uttar Pradesh. This time around his choice of a lawyer and an unblemished Dalit politician Ram Nath Kovind had portends of creating mayhem in the 18-party non-BJP opposition. That did not happen barring a hiccup. Bihar chief minister and JD (U) chief Nitish Kumar wasted no time in deciding to back Kovind, Governor of Bihar, who has since submitted his resignation. The remaining 17-members of the opposition 'Grand Alliance' decided to stay the course and nominate an accomplished 'Bihar ki beti' particularly a Dalit woman, Meira Kumar, who has been the Speaker of the Lok Sabha and a union minister. She is the daughter of an eminent and highly respected politician, the late Babu Jagjivan Ram, who went on to become the Deputy Prime Minister apart from being the Congress party's most influential Dalit leader since independence. The choice was not entirely unexpected in the prevailing circumstances as she had met Congress president Sonia Gandhi a few days back. The opposition was one in supporting Meira Kumar's candidature as its Presidential nominee. She has served with the Indian Foreign Service and has been a Member of Parliament, no less than five times or, a quarter century. However, it is no secret that Kovind is expected to win comfortably in the electoral college during the Presidential election next month on July 17. The fight, by a weak opposition, is more symbolic than anything else. It may be recalled that the Dalits, the poor, the minorities and the oppressed and depressed classes in the country had been the traditional vote bank of the Congress, the oldest political entity which was in the vanguard of the independence struggle and ruled the roost for more than three decades. Thereafter, regional satraps appeared on the scene in different parts of the country carving out their own spheres of influence in the Hindi heartland and in the South, apart from other regions. The emergence of a backward as Prime Minister in Modi and now a Dalit as the 14th Head of State are not mere coincidences bringing to the fore the pre-eminence of caste identities in society. At the same time it will be naive on anybody's part to assume that if a Dalit becomes the country's President for the second time it can solve the problems of the deprived and oppressed communities suffering for centuries. Efforts at evolving a consensus on Kovind has backfired. An ideological contest has become inevitable. The writing is on the wall about the accession of an RSS man to the sprawling and majestic Rashtrapati Bhawan. The BJP's studied silence about the atrocities against Dalits since Modi assumed power at the Centre on May 26, 2014 has angered the community. In the prevailing situation the Opposition is unlikely to pick up the obvious ideological and political gauntlet being dangled at them by the ruling establishment. At the same time what cannot be lost sight of is that the office of President is not a political one. The Constitution casts on the President and the Head of State alone the responsibility to "preserve, protect and defend" the Constitution. It is another matter that considerable number of people in the country believe that the aims and objectives of the RSS are at variance with the provisions of the Constitution. After the 17 opposition parties met on Thursday and chose Meira Kumar as the best candidate available to them, RJD's Lalu Prasad Yadav urged Nitish Kumar to reconsider what the former described as "his wrong decision" to back the NDA nominee for President. Lalu ruled out the danger of the JD (U)-Congress-RJD alliance in Bihar breaking up. Taking a dig at Nitish Kumar, he made it clear he would "never have voted with the BJP even if the Congress had asked him to". The Kovind- Meira Kumar contest brings to the fore, the role and responsibility of the President, independent of his/her erstwhile political affiliations or ideological indoctrination. It is in the overall fitness of things, the ruling party and the opposition owes the nation more than a natural and fair contest leading to the installation of a dignified Head of State.