With 17 opposition parties picking former Lok Sabha Speaker Meira Kumar to take on NDA's Ram Nath Kovind, the stage is set for a Dalit-versus-Dalit contest for the country's top constitutional post. The whole country is looking forward to the forthcoming Presidential election scheduled for July 17. The NDA selected a candidate from Dalit community, may be to tell the people of this country that the BJP is a “pro-dalit” government. The purpose also is to woo the votes from dalit community. Already heated debates are going on in the social media on the eligibility and the winning chances of the two dalit candidates.
Ram Nath Kovind was a graduate in law from a Kanpur college. He went to Delhi to prepare for the civil services examination. He passed this exam on his third attempt, but he did not join as he was selected for an allied service instead of IAS and thus started practicing the law. He was Central Government Advocate in the Delhi High Court from 1977 to 1979 and served as a Central Government standing counsel in the Supreme Court from 1980 to 1993. He joined the BJP in 1991. He was President of the BJP Dalit Morcha between 1998 and 2002 and President of the All-India Koli Samaj. He also served as national spokesperson of the party. He donated his ancestral home in Derapur to the RSS. He contested from Ghatampur and Bhognipur (both in Uttar Pradesh ) assembly constituencies on the BJP ticket but lost both elections. He also lost the election third time. The Dalit leader first stepped into politics in 1994 when he was elected as a Rajya Sabha member from Uttar Pradesh. He served for two consecutive terms for 12 years till March, 2006. Just before he was nominated for the post of President, he served as the Governor of Bihar.
Meira Kumar was born in Patna district of Bihar to the former Deputy Prime Minister and prominent dalit leader Babu Jagjivan Ram and a freedom fighter Indrani Devi. She is a lawyer and a former diplomat. In 1970, she joined the Indian Foreign Service and spent her life in many countries. She is a keen sportswoman and holds medals for rifle shooting. She is also a published author. Prior to being a member of the 15th Lok Sabha, she has been elected earlier to the 8th, 11th, 12th and 14th Lok Sabha. She served as a Cabinet Minister in the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment of Manmohan Singh's Congress led Government (2004-2009). She was elected unopposed as the first woman Speaker of Lok Sabha and served from 2009 to 2014.
Interestingly, both are Dalit leaders, lawyers by training and born in the same year – 1945. Although both belong to Dalit community, their personalities differ drastically. The contrast between the two selected candidates is seen very clearly. On the one side we are sad to note that Kovind was the only supporting witness for Bangaru Lakshman who was caught red-handed while taking bribes. It was this Kovind who made a nasty comment on Muslims and Christians that they aliens and they should leave the country. He has earned a name of a “Puppet Governor” who dances according to the tune of the Prime Minister Modi. On the other side we are proud to note that Meira Kumar had won the elections and was elected as the Lok Sabha MP five times. She proved herself as a clean and an efficient MP and the Central Minister. Moreover, she has the electoral experience which Kovind lacks.
The selection of Ram Nath Kovind as the Presidential candidate by the ruling BJP Party gives us two messages: one is that there is a severe scarcity of value-based and principled candidates within the BJP Party. Another is that the controversial and not-so-worthy candidate will dance to the tune of the ruling party BJP as long as it rules. This candidate will not be able to do anything constructively. Rather he will definitely promote the agenda of RSS and other Hindu fundamentalist groups. Many good and responsible citizens feel and fear that his tenure as the President could be a “Dark Period” in the history of India.
At present, it is all but certain that Kovind has more number of votes in his favour than Meira. For now, Kovind is in a comfortable position. He has the backing of BJP, its allies and several small parties including JD(U), BJD, TRS, AIADMK and YSR Congress. The votes of these parties sum up to over 60 per cent of the required number, which is more than enough for Kovind’s win. Around 17 big and small parties including Congress, BSP and SP are with Meira. But their votes sum up to only 40 per cent. The above numbers show, Meira is all set to lose. But, can the reverse happen? Let us all hope that it happens.
The voters (MPs and MLAs) are at the crossroad now. It is high time for them to examine their conscience sincerely and vote for the right candidate keeping the welfare of the country. Congress with 17 other opposition parties has made the right choice of selecting Meira Kumar. Is this fight between NDA and UPA? Or is it a fight between just a dalit man and a dalit woman? No, according to me the real fight is between good and evil. May the good triumph! Satyameva Jeyate!!(Published on 10th July 2017, Volume XXIX, Issue 28)