The new President

Ram Nath Kovind has been elected to be India’s 14th President. His election was a foregone conclusion and there is nothing earth-shattering about his victory. It is an occasion for the BJP and the RSS to rejoice because Kovind started his life as an RSS pracharak. The RSS can certainly be proud of the long way it has covered in over nine decades to have been able to send its man to the Rashtrapati Bhavan. The election has also exposed the fractured unity of the Opposition parties which are dreaming of capturing power in 2019 by defeating the BJP. There has been cross-voting in favour of Kovind on a large-scale – even in Mamata Banerjee’s West Bengal. If this is a portent of the shape of things to come in 2019, the Opposition either put their own house in order or give up the dream defeating the BJP.
The Congress which made much of the ‘ideological’ battle it was supposed to be fighting against communal politics by setting up Meira Kumar against Kovind will have to lick its wounds now. It has to explain to its members and supporters why Gujarat saw cross-voting to such a big extent in favour of Kovind. Pursuit of political power has nothing to do with any ‘ideology’. Cobbling together of a number of disparate political formations for power capturing cannot be passed off as a fight for any principle or ideology. The electorate is mature enough to see through the game. Unless the Opposition parties are able to arrive at an ideological and programmatic unity in the next few months – a unity which will carry conviction with the people – they will meet with a worse fate in 2019 than they did in 2014.
In a sense the Opposition should consider itself lucky that its candidate has lost. Article 74 of the Constitution, as amended by Indira Gandhi in 1976, made the President a rubber stamp of the Union Cabinet.  The amended Art 74 read that the President shall act according to the advice tendered to him by the Union Council of Ministers. If Meira Kumar had won, she would have found herself in the unenviable position of having to endorse every decision of the Modi government. She has escaped that humiliation. The result will be no different in the vice-presidential election, too. The Mahatma’s grandson may, after the result is out, have second thoughts whether the battle he was persuaded to fight was worth the candle. The battle is, however, far from over. The farmers, the dalits, the minorities, the jobless are fighting a common battle for creating an equitable society. It is for the Opposition parties to decide whether to join or keep away from this fight.

Saturday, 22 July, 2017