NEW DELHI: That Ram Nath Kovind would win the presidential polls was a foregone conclusion, but the real import of the victory was underlined by Amit Shah: “This is the first time a BJP leader has been elected to the highest office of the land — to be President of India.”
Along with Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Shah had a key role in crafting Kovind’s elevation from Bihar Raj Bhawan to the Rashtrapati Bhawan. He was the one who garnered support for Kovind, beyond the NDA votes. The result of the effort was indeed momentous for the saffron party. During the last NDA regime, Vajpayee had tactically chosen non-politician APJ Abdul Kalam, to render the election non-partisan. The main opposition Congress was forced to support India’s missile man.
But this time, with the numbers in BJP/NDA’s favour, the party bosses could pick up “unknown, low-key” Kovind as candidate, a BJP veteran said. Modi backed a self-made man from the margins of society, a self-taught Dalit lawyer-turned-politician from Kanpur Dehat, to be the 14th President. The Congress played into his hands by fielding Meira Kumar, a Dalit dynast with a privileged background, a veteran with links to Kanpur, added.
As the results were announced, Parliament was filled with many such quick analyses. Kovind’s margin was formidably high. The value of his votes was 7,02,044 as against Meira Kumar’s 3,67,314.
Solace for Congress
The old party and its 17 allies drew solace from the fact that Meira Kumar’s vote percentage was the highest ever won by any Opposition candidate. The vote value won by her too was just a shade less than Sanjeeva Reddy’s, when he lost the elections against independent candidate VV Giri.
Cross-voting, across party
The Congress tried hard to lessen the embarrassment caused to the party because of the cross voting by its MLAs in a crucial election-bound state like Gujarat, by citing the cross voting that took place in its favour in Rajasthan, Himachal, Sikkim, and Nagaland. But no less than 11 MLAs, suspected to be of the Shankarsinh Vagela camp, are said to have voted in favour of Kovind. Similarly, in Goa, two Congress MLAs voted for the NDA candidate. Gujarat is a worrisome case. Rajya Sabha elections to three seats from the state are due. The cross voting had Trinamool Congress rattled. Nearly five of its MLAs voted against Kumar.
Ace lawyer and former Congress minister Kapil Sibal led the charge against the government on cow vigilantism in Rajya Sabha, causing much heartburn in the old party. Kumari Sheilja, a Dalit leader from Haryana, was upset that she was relegated to the third speaker position despite her seniority. And, despite the fact that “Dalits were being targeted by the vigilante groups”, she cribbed to friends and sympathisers. Well, Sibal is said to be Rahul Gandhi’s favourite.