By Saarthak Anand
Ram Nath Kovind has been elected as the 14th President of India, with a thumping majority. Garnering more than 65 percent of the votes, he comfortably defeated the Opposition candidate, Meira Kumar. The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) had nominated Kovind, a Dalit leader, in an effort to rally the support of a large number of parties. The strategy acted like clockwork, as support came pouring in from across the political spectrum. By the time the Opposition parties got their act together, it was all done with. Kumar never stood a chance.
An eye on the Dalit vote
Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the BJP President Amit Shah have demonstrated their sharp political acumen, time and again. The decision to get Kovind elected as the First Citizen involved a lot of foresight. It is an element of a larger attempt to overhaul the party’s voter base. The BJP has been wooing the country’s politically-significant Scheduled Class population ever since rising to power three years ago. This is important, particularly because, the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) supremo Mayawati, long seen as the indisputable leader of the Dalits, is rapidly losing ground. She seems clueless about how to address the changing political narrative under the Modi regime.
While Mayawati has always looked to organise Dalits as a separate socio-political entity, the BJP has been trying to bring them under the umbrella of Hindu mobilisation, a rainbow coalition of a number of castes, along with a promise of a better future through economic development. The shrewdness behind this approach was visible in the recent Uttar Pradesh elections as approximately half of the non-Jatav Dalits voted for the BJP. Some might dismiss Kovind’s elevation as mere symbolism. However, in a democracy, symbolism carries its own significance. When a social group sees one of their own rising through the ranks in such a manner, it is bound to resonate.
The cross-voting phenomenon
The Presidential election, although an indirect one, is a testament to a bigger actuality. There may be nothing that currently stands in the way of the BJP’s nationwide expansion. The Opposition seems to be in disarray, struggling to keep its flock together. This is evident from the cross-voting that occurred during the poll, mostly in the NDA candidate’s favour, who managed to draw a sizeable chunk of votes from unexpected quarters.
In West Bengal, a state where the BJP has just 3 MLAs and had expected 5 votes, 11 were cast in favour of Kovind. Notably, the BJP is on the rise in the state on the back of some aggressive politics. In Uttar Pradesh, where the Samajwadi Party, Congress and the BSP, all supporting Meira Kumar, had a combined strength of 73, but the Opposition nominee could secure just 65 votes. 3 votes were cast by Congress’s Goa MLAs for Kovind. He also got more votes from Maharashtra, Gujarat, and Assam than what was expected.
Brighter skies for the BJP
The cross-voting is implicative of discontent among the Opposition ranks, as well as an increasing acceptability for the BJP which continues to grow with respect to strength. The party, having peaked in its traditional bastions in 2014, needs to expand its spheres of influence.
If this election was any indication, it is doing quite an impressive job. It is setting the political discourse, one idea at a time. The Opposition, however, is possibly lacking in both a leader and an agenda. At present, there may be no leader who can stand up to the Prime Minister. By the nature of things, Modi’s BJP has 2019 firmly locked in.
Featured Image Source: Flickr
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