The contest in the forthcoming Presidential election between NDA candidate Ram Nath Kovind and combined Opposition nominee Meira Kumar is going to be a battle of ideologies. In all probability, it will be a symbolic fight, as Mr Kovind has received support of several non-NDA parties. However, putting up Ms Kumar as their candidate, the Opposition parties are making an important point. They will not support someone with saffron agenda. It will go against their secular credentials. However, the breaking away of Janata Dal (United) led by Nitish Kumar and its decision to support the NDA candidate has dented the unity of the Opposition parties.
Anju Grover for Indian Currents spoke to CPI leader D. Raja, MP (Rajya Sabha) to know the strategy of the Opposition parties and their expectations from President Pranab Mukherjee’s successor.
Q: What are your comments on the NDA’s choice of candidate for the President’s post. Ram Nath Kovind who has a long association with the RSS and practised law is a Dalit.
A: The BJP is trying to exploit his caste. By repeatedly pointing out that he is a Dalit, the BJP has indulged in cheap politics; it will not help the country. Also, the BJP needs to explain the reason for this sudden sympathy for Dalits. Why are atrocities against Dalits increasing? What happened in Saharanpur violence? Dalits are under attack in the BJP ruled states. Dalits are being killed every day in one or other part of the country. The BJP is trying to hood-wink people by telling them that they have selected a person from Dalit community. This is nothing but an insult to the community. They are trying to project as if they have shown sympathy to the Dalit community. They should speak what they want to do for the country. The Presidential election is an important one. It will have serious implications for the country and its future. It is not a contest between NDA candidate and Opposition candidate but a contest for an institution, the Rashtrapati Bhavan.
Q: The Opposition parties evolved a consensus on Meira Kumar after the NDA announced the name of Ram Nath Kovind. You were compelled to project Meira Kumar. The numbers will not be on your side.
A: The Opposition has an obligation to fight the election. In a multi-party democracy, there should be contests. It is a political contest. There are victories and defeats in contests. The result may not be in our favour and that should not mean that elections should not be held. People will come to know about the two narratives of idea of India in these elections. It is an ideological battle… a battle for secular democracy and Constitution of India.
Q: Mr Kovind is a lawyer by profession. Do you think he will follow the law and protect the Constitution in difficult situations as the President?
A: I would not like to comment on him as to what he is going to do or not going to do. I would rather focus on the BJP which has fielded him for the top post. The BJP’s ideology is divisive, sectarian, communal and fascist. Ever since, the BJP came to power, the RSS has become aggressive and has come to the centrestage of national politics. The RSS has been dictating terms to the Modi government on every issue and trying to reverse values built in the past six-seven decades. How Rashtrapati Bhavan is going to be used… we will have to wait and see.
Q: When atrocities against Dalits were reported recently, Mr Kovind remained silent. Your views.
A: I don’t want to indulge in discussion on individuals. The fact is that the BJP is anti-Dalit and anti-minority.
Q: Can we expect an unbiased and balanced stand from Mr Kovind, who has been associated with the RSS, after taking over as the President?
A: We will have to wait and see. In a country like ours, the President’s office has its own limitations. Powers of the President have been clearly defined in the Constitution. How these powers will be used in future… we will have to wait and watch. An attempt had been made to change the fundamental tenets of the Constitution during the previous NDA government and the then President K R Narayanan had taken a firm position and made the government to retreat. That’s why I am saying we will have to wait and see how things change in future.
Q: As Governor of Bihar, Mr Kovind never had any confrontation with the Nitish Government which is why the JD ( U) decided to back his candidature. Has JD (U)’s move dented the Opposition’s unity against the ruling NDA?
A: I do not call it as setback to the opposition after JD (U) decided to back Mr Kovind’s candidature. It will have an impact in Bihar and outside also. There is a coalition government of JD (U) and RJD in Bihar. But RJD is with the opposition parties. RJD has described Meira Kumar as `Bihar ki Beti’. There will be some impact on the government. We will have to wait and watch.(Published on 26th June 2017, Volume XXIX, Issue 26)