Millennium Post

Not a rubberstamp head

Recapitulating 100 days of 14th President Ramnath Kovind.

President Ramnath Kovind has completed 100 days in the highest office of the land. Though this is a short period, it brings out many facets of his personality. Firstly, he has given the impression that he is an independent-minded person and may not turn out to be rubber-stamp President. He may have been a BJP man all his life but now, in the highest office, he is not following the party line and acting independently. Many eyebrows were raised in BJP when, contrary to the party's line, he described Tipu Sultan as a hero who died "a heroic death fighting the British. He was also a pioneer in the development and use of Mysore rockets in warfare".

Between whirlwind trips and meetings, it is personal touch in dealing with Rashtrapati Bhavan staff and visitors that has marked the first 100 days of 73-year-old President Kovind as the 14th President of India.
From a speech in Bangalore lauding Tipu Sultan's fight against British, at a time when some BJP leaders painted Tipu in negative light, to describe Mahatma Gandhi as an English teacher, President Kovind has constantly made himself heard above the ambient political noise.
At a speech in Delhi's Jesus and Mary College, he lauded the contribution of Christians to education. This was significant because, after his name had been announced as the NDA nominee for President, the spotlight had fallen on comments he made in 2010 on Islam, Christianity, and reservation.
On his maiden trip to his home state – Uttar Pradesh – in September, he described the state as the "land of Kumbh Mela and Taj Mahal". Earlier, last month, around the time some BJP leaders were criticising Kerala's "culture of violence", President Kovind travelled to the state and talked about its culture of mutual understanding of faiths.
He reportedly said: "Here I must note that the Christian community – whose history in India goes back 2,000 years back and which had contributed so much to our shared culture –has carved a special role for itself in education. Missionary institutions such as this one have become symbol of scholarship dedicated to teaching and academic excellence".
In Kerala where the Left and the right are locked in a violent battle, he chose to speak about the state's culture of religious tolerance. "Kerala's spiritual consciousness is well beyond faith and religious distinctions. The Christian community here is one of the oldest not only in India, but anywhere the world. The first mosque was built in India is in Kerala…….Kerala has also a Jewish heritage", he said.
President Kovind maintained a hectic schedule. When he travelled to Gujarat for an event to declare rural areas open defecation-free, had functions in Rajkot, Porbander and Jamnagar and also travelled to a rural area – Mangrol. Last month he travelled seven hours to Kerala for the one-hour function at Mata Anandmayee Math and returned to Delhi in time for the Air Force day celebrations in the evening.
His foreign trip so far was to Ethiopia, where he extended an impromptu invitation to Indians there to visit Rashtrapati Bhavan—packed four speeches and some half dozen events in less than 24 hours. On Teachers Day, while hosting award-winning teachers at the Darbar hall and speaking extempore, he counted in line of great and inspiring teachers not just APJ Abdul Kalam and previous President Pranab Mukherjee—who taught political science before entering politics—but also a factoid about Mahatma Gandhi, who had for a while taught English to children in Balmiki colony at Mandir Marg in Delhi. On September 2 in Gujarat he praised the late Prime Minister Morarji Desai; how it was while working with him as a young man that he has seen Gujarat closely.
President Kovind's tendency to go beyond written speech (Tipu was scripted) has taken Rashtrapati Bhavan officials by surprise. At an event organised by Nobel laureate Kailash Satyarthi, he spoke about child abuse—a topic few earlier Presidents have touched— and shared the dais with abuse victim. "God has chosen you for this," Satyarthi wrote to the President expressing his "gratitude on behalf of all children of India".
Two things President Kovind is passionate about are law and education. He recalls his humble beginning and says "it was his opportunity to pursue higher education that brought him so far. He keeps his doors open to people from all walks of life. A few days ago, he became the 10th most followed world leader on Twitter with 4.3 million. It made India the only country in the world to have two leaders among the top 10 followed politicians. Prime Minister Narendra Modi ranks number one with 36 million followers.
(The views expressed are strictly personal.)

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