The announcement of Ram Nath Kovind as NDA’s presidential candidate is clearly a political gimmick. He is neither the NDA’s candidate, nor he is the BJP’s pick. He is a candidate chosen by the RSS with the 2019 general elections in mind. It is part of the Sangh’s electoral strategy and if I am not wrong, this will be the first time in the history of independent India that a RSS activist will take up residence on Raisina Hill in the Rashtrapati Bhavan.
What an irony that an adherent to an ideology that refuses to accept the Constitution of India has been nominated for the highest constitutional position.
This is also very much a part of the politics of tokenism. Life of an ordinary Dalit will not change. Nothing will change on the ground. Therefore, we do not read anything meaningful in this announcement.
We must not forget 2002. When Muslims in large numbers were butchered in Gujarat, engulfed by communal hatred, APJ Abdul Kalam was installed as the President of India. Similar tokenism is being repeated after 15 years in 2017. Now when Dalits are being murdered, tortured and attacked by fascist Brahmanical forces all over the country with the active connivance and complicity of the state machinery, they have named a low-profile Dalit politician as their candidate for President.
The social profile of the President of India is often an indicator of the section of society which is the most oppressed. I find it interesting. When Pratibha Patil was installed in the Rashtrapati Bhavan, it was not only a symbol that condition of women on the ground was deplorable but perhaps it also signalled that having installed a woman in the high office, people in power would forget about the plight of women and do little or nothing to improve their lot.
Similarly, when APJ Abdul Kalam became President, it did not stop the persecution of Muslims. Now that a Dalit may well become the next President, we can be rest assured that the plight of Dalits will not end.
A ruling party’s preference for the politics of tokenism also reflects its reluctance or inability to address issues. It is a kind of escapism. The rulers do not want the situation to improve. They merely want to make a symbolic gesture, take a short cut. They take recourse to a temporary safety valve to quell rising anger.
Whatever Amit Shah might say, the nomination of Ram Nath Kovind is part of a long-term strategy to convert India into a Hindu Rastra of which Dalits are considered a very important component. The RSS-BJP combine has tried to woo Dalits with such tokenism in the past. But they have not been able to win them over. By and large, Dalits have remained out of their fold. Yes, some of them voted for the BJP and its Hindutva allies in UP and other states but the share was small compared to the real electoral strength of the community.
Una and Rohith Vemula’s suicide have also increased the Hindutva Parivar’s anxiety and nervousness. Clashes in Saharanpur have also been a dampener. It forced the RSS to think their strategy afresh. They have tried the carrot and the stick. In Uttar Pradesh, Swami Prasad Murya was made the deputy chief minister and in Saharanpur, they attacked Dalits, targeted the Bhim Army and Chandrashekhar in particular. Dalit youths were tortured in jails.
I think the rise of militant Dalit leadership is the immediate reason. A huge protest at Jantar-Mantar in the heart of the national capital caused nervousness in the RSS camp. They do not want to lose the historical opportunity. So, they immediately rushed in with the treatment. It is an attempt to apply balm on the injuries inflicted on Dalits of this country. It is an effort to give them a healing touch. But let me tell you that the wounds are so deep that it will not be cured with such superficial steps. It will not help the fascists. Dalits are now ready to look beyond identity politics. They are politically mature, they will not agree to be a tool to convert this nation into a Hindu Rashtra.
Finally, we should keep in mind what the agenda of RSS and BJP is in this country. It is to turn India into a Hindu Rashtra. Until this idea is consigned to the trashcan of history, nothing good can happen with the Dalits. What difference will it make even if the RSS-BJP combine nominates a Dalit as the Prime Minister of India? We need to address systemic problems.
There is an undeclared state of emergency in India today. If social unrest continues, they will announce Emergency some day. They would not flinch from it. And make no mistake. ‘President’ Kovind will happily sign the paper.
(As told to Vishwadeepak)