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  India   All India  14 Jul 2017  BJP’s choice of Kovind is far beyond symbolism

BJP’s choice of Kovind is far beyond symbolism

Published : Jul 14, 2017, 6:31 am IST
Updated : Jul 14, 2017, 6:31 am IST

Few have realised that Mr Modi has a penchant for taking things beyond symbolism.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi (right) with NDA’s presidential candidate Ram Nath Kovind. (Photo: PTI)
 Prime Minister Narendra Modi (right) with NDA’s presidential candidate Ram Nath Kovind. (Photo: PTI)

For a mediaperson, who bases his journalism on speculations and whispering in the corridors of power, the BJP’s decision to nominate Ram Nath Kovind must have come as a big surprise as the name was never imagined by the media. The shock of having failed in guessing was so severe that on the issue of BJP nominee for the post of vice-president, the speculation industry seems to have almost decided to shut the shop. This is not unexpected while Prime Minister Narendra Modi has obviously developed a deeper insight into the way the media acts or reacts, the latter perhaps is yet to understand the way of thinking of the Prime Minister.

Few have realised that Mr Modi has a penchant for taking things beyond symbolism. The reforms that he has introduced in MNREGA, the robust implementation infrastructure that he provided for the ambitious financial inclusion programme of Jan Dhan, or his emphasis on Mudra scheme that aims at converting SC/ST youths into job-givers from job-seekers are some of the few key cases in point. A rare leader who has the guts to move beyond symbolism, which is the other name of populism, he did not mince words while addressing chartered accountants on the very next day of the launch of GST. More importantly, on the basis of expert advice, his government took the unconventional decision of dissolving the Bharatiya Mahila Bank in the State Bank of India. Surprisingly, but wisely, not even the Congress opposed this decision; perhaps, a mark of realisation that symbolism has its own limitations.

Seen in this backdrop, one may understand the importance of one nation, one election — an idea strongly mooted by the Prime Minister. The juggernaut of Modi sarkar’s campaign against black money and parallel economy may not reach the end without curbing huge campaign expenditures incurred by political parties. To achieve this, just like one nation, one tax; one nation, one election is equally important. Thankfully, all those who appreciate the fact that neither populism nor symbolism can take this country ahead, have been supporting these initiates of the PM.

Of course, symbolism is important in all public affairs and more so in politics. When symbolism is practised without any realisation of objectives behind, it becomes a meaningless ritual. Dry and just technical. There are a number of progressives and rationalists who habitually ignore the importance of symbolism, specially in the context of socio-psychological issues. A section of such progressive intellectuals have, on expected lines, criticised the BJP’s decision of nominating Mr Kovind as NDA’s presidential candidate.

Opposition parties were expecting that the Shiv Sena would, like twice in the past, refuse to toe BJP’s line and refuse to back Mr Kovind as Uddhav Thackeray had openly taken exception to base the candidacy on social background, more specifically caste. However, much to the surprise of many, the Shiv Sena realised that Mr Kovind as the First Citizen of the nation is much more beyond symbolism and later endorsed the decision whole heartedly.

Many in the media took the easy path and interpreted the decision in a routine manner as dalit outreach of the BJP-RSS. “One must read between the lines”, they say. But it is often forgotten that without reading lines, between the lines has no meaning. Most comments in the media, woefully are examples of reading between the lines, while being blind to the lines themselves!

To start with, many expressed surprise and even raised an ugly, arrogant question: “Who is this Kovind?” For any student of post-1990 politics in India, to ask this question is accepting crass ignorance and lack of basic general knowledge. Another common response came through comments like “Kovind as a presidential candidate is BJP-RSS’ out reach programme!” Again, this comment not only smacks of wanton ignorance but also is objectionably condescending for many reasons.

An organisation outreaches a section of society that is not an integral part of its scheme of things. In case of the BJP, history is witness to several facts that are testimony to its integrationist, assimilative organisational character and more importantly collective commitment to social justice, in party organisation as well as in the government. Hence, to describe it as an outreach strategy is derogatory to both the SC communities as well as to the party.

Equality of respect and recognition, of participation and of opportunities for development, has always been at the core of the concept of Samarasta. Samarasta is harmony emanating from and leading towards social justice. Unlike samata, which is equity, it’s not just perceptional and outwardly. Samarasta is more about mutual understanding as it ideally comes from recognition on the part of those communities who belong to the traditionally established sections of society, of injustice done by them in the past. Again, unlike equality, it has to be more from within. It is both remorse and reconciliation. No wonder, Balasaheb Deoras, third Sarsanghchalak of the RSS had unequivocally stated that if untouchability is not sin then perhaps there are no sins in this world. When Deoras was given the prestigious Lokmanya Tilak award, he donated the entire money to an NGO working in Mhaisal, near Sangli for the economic upliftment of farmers belonging to SC communities.

Dalits to whom our Constitution rightly recognises as SCs have always supported the BJP, a party that refused to look at SC communities as vote bank. SC leaders have always been prominent in BJP’s organisational hierarchy. The BJP never ever looked at them as organisational showpieces or occupants of ornamental positions. Bangaru Laxman was once BJP’s national president. Going beyond quota, the BJP is the only party whose state units have ensured that members from SC communities are appointed as secretaries to the district units.

In Maharashtra, the BJP is in alliance with the Republican Party of India and even during the Bharatiya Jana Sangh era, for example in 1967 the BJS and Republican Party had fought elections jointly. In late 1970s, likes of Pramod Mahajan and Gopinath Munde — two senior BJP leaders of those days — joined the movement for renaming of Marathwada University at Aurangabad, after Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar also remained behind the bars. Even today, the NDA government at the Centre along with some state governments is working towards developing five important memorials for Ambedkar, including one at Chaitya Bhoomi in Mumbai where he was cremated. A simple demand for allowing land of an abandoned PSU mill in Mumbai for this memorial remained ignored and unmet for several years during the UPA rule. Again, it is in Madhya Pradesh, a BJP-ruled state that India’s first Dharma Dhamma university is taking shape near Vidisha, promoting deeper academic research that will bring about greater assimilation of SC communities in the society at large, as envisaged by Ambedkar.

Selection of Mr Kovind goes far beyond symbolism. This enriching selection is a recognition to all those who have been struggling for Samarasta, a celebration of the democracy of aspirations and above all, a salute to a true disciple of Ambedkar.

Happily, the first big celebration that Mr Kovind will perhaps be gracing will be the 75th anniversary of Quit India Movement. Let’s make sure that with a karyakarta-turned-neta occupying the Rashtrapati Bhavan, a new Chale Jav movement will start that will serve a Quit India notice on corruption, nepotism, populism and inefficiency as well as lethargy! For a true clean India, let’s remove this cobwebs as well.

The writer is a Rajya Sabha member and BJP national vice-president

Tags: ram nath kovind, narendra modi, mnrega