INDIA POLITICS: Ram Nath Kovind With Hindu Nationalist Roots to Become Next President

By Politicoscope July 15, 2017 04:00

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INDIA POLITICS: Ram Nath Kovind With Hindu Nationalist Roots to Become Next President

Indian lawmakers are set to elect the country’s next president, drawn from the main Hindu nationalist group, in a vote on Monday, tightening the control of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s right-wing associates on positions of power.

Ram Nath Kovind’s ascent to the highest public office will be the first for a leader reared in the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) or National Volunteers’ Association, the ideological mentor of Modi’s ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and its affiliates.

Under India’s constitution, the prime minister and his cabinet colleagues wield executive power and the president remains above the fray.

But the president has a key role during political crises, such as when a parliament election is inconclusive, by deciding which political party is in the best position to form a government.

Some presidents, such as the current incumbent, Pranab Mukherjee, have tried to act as conscience-keepers, using their constitutional authority as the head of state to defend India’s founding principles as a secular and diverse democracy.

Kovind, 72, a low-caste Dalit politician who served as the government’s lawyer in the Supreme Court as well as a state governor, said he would uphold the dignity of the president’s office.

“Ever since I took over as governor, I have no political affiliation. The president of India is above politics,” he said, while filing his nomination last month.

The BJP itself has been playing up Kovind’s credentials as a candidate from the lowest Dalit caste in the Hindu social hierarchy which has been oppressed for centuries but is now being wooed by political parties for its votes.

But the opposition said Kovind’s roots in the RSS, which has long espoused a Hindu India, remain a concern at a time when the Modi government is pursuing a partisan agenda and Hindu hardliners have whipped up an atmosphere of fear among the country’s minorities.

Meira Kumar, the opposition candidate put up by the centrist Congress and communist parties, said her candidacy aimed to fight the ideology Kovind represents.

“This is an election to the country’s highest office,” she said. “I respect Kovindji. My fight is not against him but the ideology he represents.”

Kovind’s victory is considered a certainty because the electoral college, consisting of members of both houses of the federal parliament and state assemblies across the country, is loaded in favor of the ruling BJP.

Voting concludes on Monday and votes will be counted on Thursday.

Kovind’s election will cap a series of top appointments Modi has made, strengthening the grip of the Hindu right on public offices, such as state chief ministers and governors, but also academic institutions and thinktanks.

In March, Modi picked Hindu hardliner Yogi Adityanath, who has been accused of inciting violence against India’s Muslim minority, to lead the country’s most populous state of Uttar Pradesh after his party won a landslide victory.

He has supported strong measures for cow protection, and also said minority groups that oppose yoga should either leave the country or drown themselves in the sea.

A long-time propagandist of the RSS runs the state of Haryana, neighboring Delhi and home to the global outsourcing industry, while more than half-a-dozen governors have had early training in the RSS drills and patriotic lessons held countrywide at dawn each day.

A background in the RSS, known for its service to the country, can only help those in public life, the editor of an RSS mouthpiece said.

“A swayamsevak thinks about the motherland and unity of society. Anyone who is associated with this ideology should be widely respected,” said Hitesh Shankar, editor of Panchjanya.

Here is the state of origin (by birth) of the last Indian Presidents:
1- Rajendra Prasad (26 January 1950 – 12 May 1962) — Siwan, Bengal Presidency, British India (now in Bihar)

2- Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan (13 May 1962 – 13 May 1967) — Thiruttani, Madras Presidency, British India (now in Tiruvallur District, Tamil Nadu)

3- Zakir Husain (13 May 1967 – 3 May 1969) — Hyderabad, Hyderabad State, (now in Telangana)

4- VV Giri, Acting President (3 May 1969 – 20 July 1969) — Berhampur, British India (now in Odisha)

5- Mohammad Hidayatullah, Acting President (20 July 1969 – 24 August 1969) — Lucknow, United Provinces, British India (now in Uttar Pradesh)

6- VV Giri (24 Aug 1969 – 24 Aug 1974) — He is the only person to have served as both an acting President and President of India.

7- Fakhruddin Ali Ahmed (24 August 1974 – 11 February 1977) — Delhi, British India

8- BD Jatti, Acting President (11 February 1977 – 25 July 1977) — Savalagi, Bombay Presidency, British India (now in Karnataka)

9- Neelam Sanjiva Reddy (25 July 1977 – 25 July 1982) — Illur, Madras Presidency, British India (now in Anantapur district, Andhra Pradesh)

10- Gyani Zail Singh (25 July 1982 – 25 July 1987) — Sandhwan, Punjab Province, British India (now Punjab)

11- Ramaswamy Venkataraman (25 July 1987 – 25 July 1992) — Rajamadam, Madras Presidency, British India (now in Tamil Nadu)

12- Shankar Dayal Sharma (25 July 1992 – 25 July 1997) — Bhopal, Central India Agency, British India (now in Madhya Pradesh)

13- KR Narayanan (25 July 1997 – 25 July 2002) — Perumthanam, Travancore, British India (now Uzhavoor in Kerala)

14- APJ Abdul Kalam (25 July 2002 – 25 July 2007) — Rameswaram, Ramnad district, Madras Presidency, British India (now in Ramanathapuram district of Tamil Nadu)

15- Pratibha Devisingh Patil (25 July 2007 – 25 July 2012) — Nadgaon, Bombay Presidency, British India (now in Maharashtra)

16- Pranab Mukherjee (25 July 2012 – Incumbent) — Mirati, British Bengal, British India (now in West Bengal)


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– Reuters

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By Politicoscope July 15, 2017 04:00
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