BJP’s presidential candidate Ram Nath Kovind has been a move that is likely to turn out to be the best of both worlds for BJP. Firstly, Ram Nath Kovind is a Dalit leader, a community that is the real holy cow in the Indian polity. Thus, it will be difficult for any party to counter the credibility of his candidature. More importantly, the vulnerable area of the BJP’s support base – the dalits – have been tried upon to be wooed by BJP. How much it will work for BJP’s favor is another issue as the move is very naïve and not enough to steer the support in a different direction. To really turn the Dalits towards BJP’s favor, the party has to take concrete steps towards the community and make realistic moves to bridge the gap of privileges between them and the upper caste Hindus. The president has very little administrative power to make any significant difference to the problems faced by the Dalits.
However, this move is enough to win the presidential vote on July 17 with ease. Already, comments of affirmation are coming from various non-BJP parties. Nitish Kumar of Janata Dal United congratulated Kovind, “I am personally glad he is the presidential candidate.” Ramvilas Paswan of the Lok Janshakti Party, said those who oppose Kovind will be considered anti-Dalit.
BJP, too, is hoping that this Dalit card will help them consolidate their position amongst the backward communities. A Dalit activist, Martin Macwan, endorse the BJP’s concern with Dalit votes. “They are trying to kill two birds with a stone. Firstly, they will be able to appease Dalits. Secondly, no party will want to challenge a Dalit candidate,” he said.
Kovind is considered as a moderate Hindu, although he is being affiliated to RSS. An RSS associate said about Kovind that “Kovind has mentored the Sangh extensively on its reach out efforts towards dalits as part of samajik samrastha. His favourite words that he uses in all his speeches are that every one of us needs to work to the best of this shamta (capacity), samata (maintain parity), namrata (humility) and mamata (love).”
Kovind will come in handy to BJP to counter the Dalit based parties, such as, SP, BSP in UP and JD-U in Bihar. In fact Kovind was sent to Bihar to counter the Dalit based politics of Nitish Kumar and Lalu Prasad Yadav. This time, he is likely to play a much wider role in championing the Dalit for larger part of the country.