The Bharatiya Janata Party has chosen Dalit leader and Bihar Governor Ram Nath Kovind as its presidential candidate. The election, by a collegium comprising Members of Parliament and state Assemblies, will be held on July 17 and counting on July 20.
Kovind, a lawyer from Uttar Pradesh and a former Rajya Sabha member, may be the next President of India after Pranab Mukherjee, as the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance has maximum numbers. This is seen as a smart move on the part of the ruling coalition, for it not only makes it difficult for the rival parties to oppose a Dalit candidate but also tends to placate the Dalit community which is unhappy with the saffron dispensation in UP and Gujarat.
Further, a Dalit candidate from UP is expected to help the BJP in the state in the next general election.
The party’s Parliamentary board formally took the decision on Monday morning at the BJP headquarters in New Delhi. While announcing the decision, party chief Amit Shah said that political parties have been informed about it. “I hope all will agree to the name,” he said at a press conference.
If elected, Kovind will be the second Dalit President. K.R. Narayanan was the first one.
The Opposition complained that the BJP acted unilaterally. The BJP’s old ally, Shiv Sena, was also not very happy and is yet to declare whether it will support Kovind.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi reportedly personally informed several chief ministers.