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What's wrong if Ram Nath Kovind – a Dalit – becomes the President of India?
In what could be called a master stroke by Narendra Modi-Amit Shah duo, the NDA on Monday declared Bihar governor Ram Nath Kovind as its presidential candidate.

It is another surprise move by Narendra Modi of picking an important candidate outside Delhi power corridor with an aim to shoot multiple targets with one shot.

It was long being expected that Narendra Modi-led BJP would go for Dalit or tribal candidates for the posts of President and Vice President. I had expected a tribal candidate to become the Presidential nominee this time (as no tribal has ever become the President of India), but then, the current choice is also not bad.

Technically, the opposition has been caught in a trap with this surprise announcement as they would be seen as anti-Dalit if they oppose Kovind's candidature. However, CPI has said that since Kovind has RSS links, opposition parties should field their own candidate against him. But now, with the TRS and the AIADMK officially supporting the NDA candidate, I think the opposition's options are limited.

However, my intent behind writing this article is not to focus on the political ramifications of this move, but rather on the social implications of a Dalit being named as the next presidential candidate. The moment Amit Shah declared Kovind's name as NDA's presidential candidate, there was a lot of criticism and ridiculing on social media along with comments on different news portals carrying the news. Many people questioned whether being a Dalit was a qualification big enough for staking claim over the top post of India? Shouldn't merit be the sole criterion, at least for the top two posts of the country? Isn't it vote bank politics by BJP? And so on.

First, let me clear that yes, I totally agree that this is a political decision by BJP. Whenever a party has the required numbers to elect its selected candidate as President, it is considered as a political decision. But when the ruling party doesn't have sufficient votes to elect its candidate, it has to opt for a consensus and generally a non-political candidate emerges (like Dr APJ Abdul Kalam). Thus, this is completely a political decision by BJP with an eye on 2019 general election.

But let's think a bit differently. What's wrong in a person from Dalit or tribal community becoming the President of India? Both President and Vice President are ceremonious posts. Here merit doesn't matter. Social justice says that whenever possible, people from backward community must be given preference so that they don't feel socially alienated. In top three posts in this democracy, we need a Prime Minister with merit, a post that can't be compromised with as the country depends upon how the governance is done. And a weak or inefficient PM will make the country suffer. However, President's and Vice President's posts are such where merit matters less.

Father of the nation, Mahatma Gandhi had also opted for a Dalit (Harijan) woman as the first President of India. This might be symbolic but has great relevance in bringing social justice. Thus, merit or no merit, but President's and Vice President's posts should always be occupied by people from backward communities.

Now coming back to the candidature of Ram Nath Kovind. He might be a Dalit but merit wise too he is no less than the other presidential candidates in contention. He's a Supreme Court lawyer-turned-politician from humble background who fought for the rights of the backward community. He is famous for providing free legal services to people from the backward community. He has been a member of the board of governors of IIM-Kolkata and also represented India at the UN.

Thus, there's no dearth of merit in Mr Ram Nath Kovind. He isthe perfect choice for the top post of India. CPI might find Kovind's RSS links as objectionable, but then, even the current Indian Prime Minister is an RSS man but yet people elected him. Thus, let CPI and its like minded parties say whatever they want, but Ram Nath Kovind is all set to become India's next President.

Editorial NOTE: This article is categorized under Opinion Section. The views expressed in this article are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of merinews.com. In case you have a opposing view, please click here to share the same in the comments section.
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