Race for Raisina Hill: Parties break opposition ranks to support Ram Nath Kovind

Following BJP president Amit Shah’s announcement of Ram Nath Kovind as the Presidential candidate, interesting developments are taking place in Indian political horizon.

The NDA has put up a united front on Kovind. The Shiv Sena, which had played hard ball and supported UPA candidates in the last two presidential elections, has come on board to support Kovind’s nomination. At a Press conference in his Matoshree residence in Bandra on Tuesday, Shiv Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray said, “We fully support Kovind. He has a nice personality. He has done a lot of good work.”

TDP, a constituent of the ruling NDA, has offered its full support to Kovind. “You have chosen a right candidate for the top post. An intellectual with high values belonging to the Dalit community is very apt in all respects for the president’s post,” TDP chief and Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister N Chandrababu Naidu reportedly told Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

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PDP supremo Mehbooba Mufti, who is running a coalition government with the BJP, in Jammu & Kashmir has also extended the support of her party to Kovind.

There is not a single party in the NDA which has reservations on Kovind’s name. It is not just NDA allies, parties have broken opposition ranks and are rallying behind Kovind.

JD(U), a former NDA ally and now part of the UPA, is reportedly all prepared to announce its support to Kovind. “All the leaders have decided that we will support Ram Nath Kovind for the post of president. He is Bihar’s first governor who has been nominated for this post. We are very happy with this, it is the matter of Bihar’s development,” a JD(U) leader named Ratnesh Sada was on quoted as saying today. Earlier, Nitish Kumar had said, “In my capacity as the Bihar Chief Minister, it is a matter of happiness that our Governor has been declared as the candidate for the next President of India.”

The BJD, another former ally of the NDA, came out in support of Kovind’s candidature. “The office of the President of India is above political consideration and BJD wants to keep it above the politics,” BJD supremo and Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik told reporters in Bhubaneswar.

Down South, TRS is among the first to back Kovind’s candidature for the post of President even though the party is not a constituent of the NDA.

YSRCP, another non-NDA party, has given a thumbs-up on Kovind’s candidature. YSRCP chief Jagan Mohan Reddy tweeted:

DMK, an UPA constituent, has reportedly conveyed its difficulty in opposing ’s Kovind’s candidature.

Though the Samajwadi Party is yet to make its stand “official” on the Presidential candidate, party patriarch Mulayam Singh Yadav has expressed his support for Kovind, who is from Uttar Pradesh. The party does not want to be seen opposing a Dalit leader from UP as the next President. But Samajwadi Party president Akhilesh Yadav, however, reportedly said that he would back the opposition candidate. “We are ourselves confused,” SP leader Naresh Agrawal was quoted as saying.

The BSP, which claims to fight for Dalit rights, does not want to be seen opposing a Dalit candidate for the post of President. “The BSP’s stand cannot be negative towards a Dalit nominee for the post of President. Our stand will be positive provided the opposition does not field any Dalit for the top post,” BSP chief Mayawati told reporters in Lucknow.

Ram Nath Kovind, a prominent Dalit leader, has many decades of experience in serving the poor and down trodden through the medium of politics. Though Kovind does not fit into the bill of the Lutyens and the elites in Indian politics, those who know him agree with the fact that Kovind is a thorough intellectual having a strong understanding over public policy.

Underlining the beauty of Indian democracy, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has spoken to Congress president Sonia Gandhi and former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. But it is unlikely that the Congress-led opposition will support Kovind’s candidature.

But the problem is that the Congress – which is the key opposition – is really struggling to stitch together to form an opposition force in the run up to the Presidential election. Though the party has been engaging in hectic confabulations with potential partners, there was hardly a forward movement in this regard. Now, the Left parties are reportedly upset with the Congress because it could not to announce a candidate before the BJP did, and thereby missed the opportunity to set the narrative. Now, a disparate Congress is struggling to find a Dalit candidate who has both intellectual heft and political acceptance like Kovind.

The NDA is comfortably placed in the Electoral College which elects the President of India. NDA parties together have close to 5.37 lakh votes which accounts for 48.64 per cent of the total votes the Electoral College. Technically the NDA wants the support of one or two opposition parties to make its candidate win in the Presidential election. With the support of some non-NDA parties for Kovind, it now appears just a matter of time that he would be the next President of India.

Political writer, policy observer.

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