At a time when the Dalit groups continue to protest in Uttar Pradesh and elsewhere against atrocities by the upper castes and cow vigilantes, the Bharatiya Janata Party nominating Bihar Governor Ram Nath Kovind (pictured) — a Dalit leader — is a smart move.
There is a clear split in the Opposition, with some — Bahujan Samaj Party Chief Mayawati and Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik — lending their support. Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar, too, has said he is happy with the choice. It is unlikely his party, the Janata Dal (United) that he also heads, will oppose Kovind.
Given his credentials, an affable Kovind seems to have all the requisites to occupy the highest constitutional office. His low profile persona is a necessary attribute. The Left parties, rapidly losing relevance, must not repeat their political brinkmanship of opposing A P J Abdul Kalam in 2002, which left them isolated. The parties would betray their lack of political maturity and sagacity if they go ahead sponsoring even some other Dalit member to contest for the sake of putting up a fight. Instead, they must demonstrate a certain degree of statesmanship. By not doing so, they would only be committing political harakiri.
S K Choudhury Bengaluru