No Dalit President Needed
Modi & Shah could have done much better than giving us a smiling Dalit face. But here we are.
(Originally posted on my blog. If you can, do have a look there. It is famous for having no visitors.)
This is what we have come down to.
There was a time when governments used to concern themselves with how long their people lived. Now, they concern themselves with how long their governments last.
There was a time when the winning of a majority by a party meant it could act with decisiveness and be bold with its decisions. Now, winning a majority means the party has to take decisions which guarantee the majority next time too.
The selection of the BJP’s presidential candidate (let’s not kid ourselves; it is the BJP’s pick, not the NDA’s) comes at a time when Dalits are being seen as fighting for their rights / instigating violence. There is Rohith Vemula. There is the Bhim Army. There is Sahranpur. There is Una.
The BJP government got an almost-unprecedented mandate. It could have used it to make some long-overdue changes; why, they could have tackled the issue of reservation, or at least made a schedule for it to be phased out. What they have done here, however, is apparently pure symbolism. Pulling a face out of obscurity and putting him on the highest Constitutional post makes him indebted to the party which did. When the time comes for him to choose, will he actually choose? There can be analysis on his past decisions, his personal choices, even what WikiLeaks has on him. But it is a fair question.
It is not as if the BJP government hasn’t implemented its mandate. In fact, it has implemented it thoroughly. Demonetisation is one (does anyone know what it really achieved? Like actual figures?). Making Aadhar everyone’s ID card is one (do you know that without the linked Aadhar number, your bank account can be frozen?). Making someone’s food choice the justification for beating that someone to death is one. Making cattle slaughter illegal (and thus destroying an entire industry) is one. Not many may know, but the Government has fought tooth and nail against our judiciary for protection of our Armed Forces and police under AFSPA. Which sounds good, except that we are talking about cases of rapes, unexplained killings, shooting children less than 15 years of age, torture. You can debate on the good and the bad and even on my assumptions, but you cannot dispute that within its 3 years and a few months, they have done the above completely, all over the country.
So, if all their decisions were good and benefited the people, then why this decision to select a Dalit face? Of course, maybe Mr. Ram Nath Kovind will be an excellent President of India. But if it is not symbolism, then after the candidate’s selection, the party and its allies had the opportunity to set an agenda. And the agenda they set was remarkably subtle: ‘He is a Dalit! Oppose him, and you’re anti-Dalit!‘
The Dalits don’t deserve, and they don’t need this symbolism. They can stand up for themselves now.
Add to it, the worst Opposition ever seen.