(B Someshwar Rao)
Did you ever hear the name Ramnath Kovind (no, not Govind with wrong spelling, but Kovind with a K), unless you belong to his Koli community or his town in Uttar Pradesh, the likelihood is little. He was the 14th President of India and though it seemed like yesterday that he was sworn-in, his term is already over and the 15th, Draupadi Murmu has taken over.
Ramnath Kovind and Draupadi Murmu, the first President of India born in Independent India and also the first Santhal tribal woman of Odisha, were both discoveries of Narendra Damodardas Modi, the Prime Minister. Unlike in the former regime of the Congress they were not former Union Ministers or professional politicians. Earlier due to factionalism, those who were not wanted in the states but had big factional support used to be ‘kicked up’ as Governors and then as Presidential candidates. He as PM took all the decisions – as per the political culture evolved by the dynastic Congress.
But, for similar acts Narendra Modi is being blamed by as autocratic, called a dictator and his statement demanded on every local incident the dynasty. The Opposition led by the Congress is also shedding crocodile tears for vice-president Venkaiah Naidu being not made the President. Will they say why Justice Hidaytullah, Chief Justice of Nagpur High Court was sent home after his term as VP?
Trinamul Cogress (TMC) supremo Mamata Bannerjee, (Didi), who was the first propose a common Opposition candidate says all parties could have agreed and unanimously supported Murmu and Jagdeep Dhankhar for President and VP along with the ruling party. Didi, who backed Muslim groups’ questioning the ’delay’ in action against Nupur Sharma, took almost a week to sack a minister accused of corruption and arrested.
Modi did not keep his choices a secret and announced the NDA candidates’ names days in advance. It is not known what stopped her from cobbling unanimity on them. It is obvious that she was bluffing.
The unanimity talk reminds us of the Congress rejecting the idea of a unanimously elected President.
The BJP wanted a second term for the best President India ever had Dr. A.P.J. Abdul Kalam. Dr. Kalam had said he was ready for a second term only if there was no contest, The then ruling Congress, however put up Pratibha Patil to got elected the worst-ever President the country had. Her primary qualification was that she said she was ready to clean the used dishes in Indira Gandhi’s house (perhaps, the only thing she was good at). This was the Congress stand on unanimity for the best candidate. Perhaps, the party thought the Muslim vote bank it was appeasing would not be pleased with the candidature of someone who quoted the classic Tirukkural and Tamil more than the Quran and Arabic.
Kovind and Murmu were not the only surprises that Modi sprang. Smriti Irani was known as a popular actress of a television serial. Nirmala Sitaraman was popular not only as a BJP spokesperson, but also a south Indian who preferred to speak in Hindi. But who ever heard of P. Goyal, Subrmanyam Jaishshankar, S, Soniwal, K. Rijju, P. K. Paras, M, and Mandavia. A. Vaishnav and a host of other names unknown before?
Similarly, since he came to power at the Centre Bollywood stars, famous doctors, famous cricketers and such celebrities, who used to be bestowed honours by the Congress regime, have stopped getting ‘Padma’ Awards which are now given to ‘humble’ people who did great work for the community. A poor man spending a few rupees for common good is far greater than a millionaire giving away a few lakhs to charity. For the first time after seven decades of Independence this axiom is being practiced and not confined to books and writing.
So, Modi chose for the highest position in the country a humble tribal woman, who despite her own tribulations likes losing five members of her family within a month, served the society, seeking spiritual solace in Brahmakumaris mission. From a tribal, she rose to be a Governor of a predominantly tribal State of Jharkhand. And the Congress chose to insult such a great woman by calling her ‘Rashtrapatni’ as it could not tolerate a tribal woman becoming the supreme commander ‘rashtrapatni’of India’s deference services. The Congress floor leader, Adhir Ranjan Choudhuri is not an illiterate street vendor. His calling Draupadi Murmu, not Rashtrapati, which is her position but ‘Rahtrapatni’ is a deliberate act of insult, premeditated and even perhaps prompted by Mrs. Sonia Gandhi. No wonder, therefore, that an aggressive minister, Smriti Zuber Irani inside the Lok Sabha and Nirmala Sitaraman outside the House castigated the party in such strong terms.
Rahtra Patni, smeans wife of the nation. Rashtrapati is a constitutional post not split as Rashtra and Pati (husband). Chaudhari and Sonia were not even repentant about what he called a mere ‘slip of tongue’. He must be aware that ‘nagar vadhu’ is used for a prostitute. His technical apology much later without withdrawing his words and the defence on the floor of the House, are meaningless. Does the party call Pratibha Patil Rashtra Patni? Can we go on writing Chod-ari as his name and then dismiss it with a cursory ‘sorry’?
They may be unknown to many, but they were all known to Modi. For a ‘chaiwala’ turned Pracharak of RSS, Narendra Modi has tremendous contacts. Coming from a profession where contacts are the biggest asset – journalism – I admire his knowing so many great people.