Draupadi Murmu’s selection as the NDA’s Presidential candidate has certainly to do with wooing the tribal votebank in the country, but it is also more than that. As in the case of President Ram Nath Kovind, it is recognition of someone who has risen from the ranks in the BJP over many years. This acknowledgement of the party’s cadre is a feature of the BJP that is lacking in most other parties, whose top posts are captured by an elite group or families. So, no matter how hard activists may have worked at the grassroots, they never get appointed to the plum posts. A telling case in point is the bypassing of Shiv Sena’s otherwise influential Eknath Shinde by Maharashtra Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray so that son Aaditya Thackeray could be put centre-stage. Even among the supposed representatives of the proletariat, the Communist parties, the same persons have remained in control for decades and representation of Dalits or Tribals in the upper echelons is nearly non-existent.
So, it is natural for the BJP to flaunt its grassroots candidates as representatives of its merit based and inclusive political ideology. It also happens to be good politics and pays off at election time. Former Uttarakhand Governor Baby Rani Maurya was re-inducted into electoral politics during the UP assembly elections and the strategy worked handsomely in attracting the targeted votes.
And it is not that the BJP appointees are not up to the mark. Although there have been no real challenges during incumbent President Kovind’s tenure, he has more than upheld the dignity of his office. At no time has he seemed subservient to the ruling party and has confined himself to his constitutional role. This is more than can be said for some of his predecessors who infamously crawled when asked to bend.
Already, the announcement of the NDA’s candidate is paying off. Support has come from parties such as the JMM, as also ‘Dalit’ leaders like Jitan Ram Manjhi and Chirag Paswan. The number will only grow. So, if there was any doubt about the NDA finding the votes for its candidate, the outcome should be clear by now. It was anyway a lost cause for the Opposition, which could only put on offer the same old names – Sharad Pawar, Farooq Abdullah, Gopalkrishna Gandhi and, eventually, Yashwant Sinha. They simply do not have any bench strength or the ability to project a political message. After all, the contest was anyway going to be symbolic. Or were they daft enough to actually believe they had a hope?