Ms Kumar and Congress chief Sonia Gandhi best summed up the reality by declaring it “a contest of ideologies”.
The name of the BJP’s candidate for vice-president, M. Venkaiah Naidu, Union minister and an old RSS hand from Andhra Pradesh, was announced on Monday even as the President of India was being elected. Ram Nath Kovind, BJP’s candidate for the presidency, is thought to be so far ahead of the Opposition candidate Meira Kumar in the electoral college votes that Prime Minister Narendra Modi offered his congratulations to Mr Kovind “in advance”.
When names of the two candidates first emerged, pro-BJP voices held that Mr Kovind was a top-class personality and had the necessary qualifications. In light of this, it was argued, the Congress should not have offered a contest although Ms Kumar’s personality or qualifications were not questioned, and that a unanimously elected first citizen might have been the ideal outcome. In any case, their argument ran, why contest when defeat is certain.
From the start, this was a questionable argument, meant to obscure Mr Kovind’s deep RSS background. The so-called dalit-versus-dalit race was also a diversion promoted to further the same objective and many non-suspecting individuals bought into it. The respective merits of the two candidates were also brought into the equation by others.
Ms Kumar and Congress chief Sonia Gandhi best summed up the reality by declaring it “a contest of ideologies”. The expression does call a spade a spade. The facts are clear. For the first time since Independence, the stamp of Hindutva would be left in Rashtrapati Bhavan at the same time as a Hindutva leader is Prime Minister. This can conceivably raise doubts about whether the present Constitution, to which Hindutva votaries have been opposed from the beginning, can be preserved, in its spirit.
When an electoral challenge is offered in such a situation, and in the context of severe electoral disadvantage, it signifies that voices which question the ruling establishment and its presiding deities are alive. The critical importance of this for a democracy can hardly be overstated.
It is interesting that when the Congress and its Opposition partners named Gopalkrishna Gandhi, the distinguished grandson of Mahatma Gandhi and former governor of West Bengal, the argument of supporting a good, solid candidate did not issue from the supporters of the RSS-BJP establishment. It was self-evident that it was hard to think of a more suitable candidate than Mr Gandhi, a sensitive writer, a former civil servant and diplomat, and a man of probity whose intellectual personality challenges the Hindutva vision of India. However, for ideological and political reasons alone, the BJP’s choice fell on one of the most steeled of RSS-background leaders, whose accomplishments outside of BJP politics are, alas, yet to be advertised.
The country will soon have the PM, President, and vice-president, all from the RSS stables, an extraordinary achievement for the religious far Right.