On July 17 when members of the Electoral College go to elect the next President of India, their choice will be between NDA candidate Ram Nath Kovind and combined Opposition nominee Meira Kumar. But more importantly, it is a choice between two divergent ideologies. Of course, there is a common thread linking them – both are Dalits from Hindi heartland. The similarity probably ends there; dissimilarities emerge fast, keeping them poles apart. In naming Mr Kovind as its candidate, the BJP took a decisive and calculated step in ensuring the next occupant of Rashtrapati Bhavan as someone with saffron agenda. This is a step forward after filling the posts of over a dozen Governors with similar ideology and agenda in the last three years.
Reports suggest that Mr Kovind, as BJP’s spokesperson, before assuming the gubernatorial post in Bihar, held the saffron agenda close to his heart. Instead of holding an inclusive view, he unambiguously advocated the Hindutva theory of categorising Muslims and Christians as followers of alien religions; he had emphatically rejected the Ranganath Misra Commission’s report recommending reservation to the economically and socially weaker sections of Muslims and Christians. This is a reflection of the RSS ideology enumerated by M.S. Golwalkar, its second Sarsanghchalak, who wrote in his book ‘ Bunch of thoughts’: “The foreign races in Hindustan ….. must stay in the country wholly subordinated to the Hindu nation claiming nothing, deserving no privileges far less any preferential treatment not even citizens rights.”
At a time when Dalit unrest is erupting across the country, naming a Dalit as the Presidential candidate is nothing but a lip service to the cause of the downtrodden. Incidents of lynching; clashes leading to large-scale uprooting of the community members; suicides by Dalit scholars due to apparent humiliation by Hindutva organisations; and continued practice of ‘untouchability’ have led to disillusionment among Dalits. There is widespread disenchantment among them against perceived majoritarian oppression. Though the BJP is winning election after election, violent protests by Dalit organisations are giving heartburns to the party.
In a country where elections from panchayats to Parliament are decided by caste equations, the upcoming elections in some States, especially Gujarat, are playing heavily on BJP leaders. They cannot afford to slip Gujarat, the State of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and party chief Amit Shah, out of their hands. It is important to take note that the State has 24 per cent Koli population, a caste to which Mr Kovind belongs.
From Dr. Rajendra Prasad to Mr. Pranab Mukherjee, Rashtrapati Bhavan has seen 13 occupants in the post-Independent India. There were veteran freedom-fighters, Parliamentarians, philosophers, diplomats, scientists, and educationists among them. They were all secularists to the core. None of them had aligned with sectarian organisations; none had subscribed to ‘hindutva’ ideology. Their sole loyalty was to the Constitution of India. If everything goes according to the NDA plan, the Rashtrapati Bhavan will open its gates on July 25 to someone with an additional tag – an RSS link. But, u nfortunately, several regional and small parties have failed to see this dangerous plot of an unwritten script.(Published on 26th June 2017, Volume XXIX, Issue 26)