New Delhi: Springing a major political surprise this afternoon, the BJP named Bihar Governor Ram Nath Kovind, a senior Dalit leader, as NDA’s presidential nominee for the next month’s election for country’s top Constitutional post. The “master stroke”, as one of the BJP leaders put it, has been played with an eye on the next general elections. It has also pushed the Opposition into a Catch-22 situation as voting against him would be seen to be opposing a Dalit leader.
Kovind,72, has been the Bihar Governor since August 2015. Born in October 1945 in rural Kanpur, Kovind comes from a modest background and has served as the BJP Dalit Morcha president during Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s government at the Centre between 1998 and 2002.
“Kovindji has worked for several years for the backward classes’ welfare,” BJP chief Amit Shah said while announcing his name soon after the BJP Parliamentary Board meeting held for the purpose at the party head office. Sources said the meeting was a mere formality. “No other name was discussed in the meeting chaired by Shah. The name for NDA’s vice president candidate has not yet been decided,” the BJP chief told a waiting media.
The decision was informed by the PM himself to Congress chief Soni Gandhi and former Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh. But the announcement of Kovind’s name has surprised a large section within the BJP’s top leadership which was clearly put in the dark. “I doubt even the three-member panel of senior members formed by the party to talk to the Opposition had any inkling of it,” quipped a senior functionary at the Ashoka Road.
Shah had jokingly challenged a group of senior editors over a lunch last month saying “if you all collectively guess a set of names you would still not be able to predict the name of our candidate”. Kovind’s announcement has proven that the name was only known between him and the PM. Extraordinary secrecy had been maintained by top BJP brass in this regard as no leader had distantly hinted at Kovind. There were at least a dozen names doing the rounds in media and political circles of the country for the last two months but none had thought of Kovind.
Meanwhile, CPI has said considering Kovind’s links with the RSS, Opposition should contest the election with all their might by putting up a strong candidate. The Opposition is expected to formulate their strategy and come up with their name in a day or two, Congress sources told the Free Press Journal.
- Congress says it doesn’t want to comment on the name of the candidate announced by the NDA
- TMC chief and West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee said she has never heard of Kovind
- CPI termed BJP’s decision a ‘political move’ as Kovind is from RSS, says Opposition should fight.