Presidential Election 2017: Opposition copied Modi’s strategy of choosing Dalit candidate but it may not work

 

In a blatant copy-cat act showing the united Opposition’s desperate move to counter BJP’s presidential candidate Ram Nath Kovind, former Lok Sabha Speaker Meira Kumar was declared the candidate by the Opposition comprising 17 political parties. In doing so, the Opposition has turned the presidential election into a ‘Dalit versus Dalit’ contest.

“Given her wide experience both as a politician and speaker, Meira Kumar is the most suitable candidate for the post of president,” the Congress said after Thursday’s meeting of the Opposition, which was chaired by Congress president Sonia Gandhi.

Has Opposition tried to copy Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s strategy?

Political analysts see the development differently, dubbing Congress and Opposition’s decision to have a Dalit candidate as “a desperate move without any vision and ideas”.

“The decision of the Opposition to announce Meira Kumar as their candidate is a move in desperation. Forget numbers, they neither have vision nor ideas. It’s like a copy-paste job. To counter NDA candidate Kovind, they decided to have another Dalit candidate Meira Kumar in place. Prime Minister Narendra Modi has virtually left the Opposition voiceless by announcing Kovind as the candidate. Now, Congress and the Left are using Modi’s strategy to counter Kovind,” said former editor of India Today Hindi, Jagdish Upasane.

Sharing a similar view, political analyst and professor of Geopolitics, Manipal University, MD Nalapat said, “Both the Congress and the Left are fixated with the idea of old India. Meira Kumar is a good candidate, but they didn’t choose her for her qualifications and qualities, but for her caste. It shows the Opposition lacks vision.”

He added, “Young India below 30 is looking beyond caste. Had the Opposition thought of going beyond this Dalit factor, it would have been better. Modi chose Kovind, not because of his Dalit identity alone, but the latter is a disciplined party member. Kovind shares a very good rapport with the prime minister, which is important in a president-prime minister functioning.”

A desperate Opposition

The desperation in the announcement is symbolic of the fractured Opposition that is not able to put up a strong, united front against the government. That’s quite unlike the times when the UPA regime was in power.

The first blow to the Opposition in the ongoing quest for a presidential candidate was from the Janata Dal-United when Nitish Kumar decided to back Kovind. AIADMK had already announced that it would support Kovind and CPM too had been working on four candidates including BR Ambedkar’s grandson, Prakash Ambedkar. The CPM had almost unanimously finalised Ambedkar as its presidential candidate.

However, after Thursday’s meeting, the Left decided to give full support to Meira Kumar. “She has the best experience to be the candidate for presidential election. Initially, we had four names including Ambedkar. But, now CPM will fully support Meira Kumar,” the CPM said.

According to JD(U) sources, a couple of their MPs received a message from Congress leader Jairam Ramesh, who told them that their decision to support Kovind was “unfortunate and disappointing”. “Some of our MPs received a text message from Ramesh stating that JD(U)’s decision to support Kovind was unfortunate and disappointing. It reflects the frustration in the Congress,” a JD(U) source said.

Though the Opposition has finally named its candidate, political analysts have doubts on whether ‘Dalit vs Dalit’ strategy will work in their favour.
“Against Kovind, who is a Dalit from Uttar Pradesh, the Opposition has chosen Meira Kumar, a Dalit from Bihar, to put Nitish Kumar in dilemma, as the latter has decided to support Kovind. But, it’s not likely to work,” added Nalapat.

“While Mulayam Singh attended Modi’s dinner on 20 June, he stayed away from Akhilesh Yadav’s Iftar party. This clearly shows the friction within Samajwadi Party. Given the situation, how many Samajwadi Party MPs will support Meira Kumar, is doubtful. Congress is so confused that first, it approached Sushil Kumar Shinde and after his refusal, Meira Kumar’s name was finalised. Rather than contesting on principle, Congress has announced its ‘Dalit’ candidate just to oppose government’s decision, without any vision,” added Upasane.

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