The Opposition parties will meet on Thursday to decide their presidential candidate and speculations are that the former Lok Sabha Speaker, Meira Kumar, will be chosen to counter Bharatiya Janata Party's (BJP) Ram Nath Kovind's claim to the Raisina Hill.
According to various news reports, former chief minister of Maharashtra, Sushilkumar Shinde and Kumar are among frontrunners in the last leg of race to presidential poll nominations. However, Shinde dismissed reports that his name is being considered, making Kumar's nomination more likely, according to News18 report. Moreover, Kumar's meeting with Congress president Sonia Gandhi at her residence on Wednesday, further fueled speculations over her likely candidature.
Kumar's candidature, if she's chosen, would be seen as a copy-cat move to counter BJP's presidential pick, Kovind who is also a Dalit leader from Uttar Pradesh. Considering the race boils down to a face-off between the Kovind and Kumar, it will be an interesting competition as both leaders are respected names from their respective parties.
While Kovind is a veteran BJP man, who has shared amicable relationship with the Sangh, Kumar has entered electoral politics in 1985, when she joined Congress. If the popularity of the two leaders is compared, Kovind, a little known face in national political, loses out to Kumar who is a five time Lok Sabha MP and the first woman to become the Lok Sabha Speaker. Kumar also claims the political legacy of her father Babu Jagjivan Ram, a former deputy prime minister and a prominent Dalit rights crusader.
However, that doesn't mean that Kovind lacks the political astuteness. He has headed the BJP's Dalit Morcha and is among one of the few Dalit faces the party could boast of in it's folds in north India. He is also a two-time Rajya Sabha MP from Uttar Pradesh besides being the Bihar Governor.
In his long standing political career, Kovind not only has the experience of sitting on a constitutional post as Bihar governor but he also has enough administrative experience as member of various parliamentary committees. He has been the chairman of the Rajya Sabha House Committee and has served as a member of the Parliamentary Committee on Welfare of Scheduled Castes/Tribes and Social Justice and Empowerment among others.
Kumar, on the other hand, has the experience in electoral politics that perhaps Kovind lacks. She has been the Minister of Social Justice and Empowerment from 2004 to 2009. In 2009, she had a brief stint as member of the cabinet as Union Minister for Water Resources, which she quit after being nominated as the Speaker of Lok Sabha.
Another factor that plays in favour of Kovind is his humble background. The saffron party has announced Kovind's candidature, playing up his humble beginings, and an image of a self-made man. Kovind comes from a small village in Kanpur district before rising through the ranks of BJP and establishing himself as a prominent lawyer.
Kumar on the other hand is perceived as a Lutyen's zone politician, who has close ties with the Nehru-Gandhi family. Against Kovind's humble background, Kumar is a former IFS officer and the daughter of a prominent politician. Out of her five tenures as an MP, three were contested from Delhi and not her father's work field Bihar.
Kovind has worked for Dalit empowerment too. He joined a stir by SC/ST employees when in 1997 certain orders were issued by the Centre which adversely affected their interests. Kovind took the lead in providing free legal aid to weaker sections, especially the SC/ST women, and poor and needy girls under the aegis of the Free Legal Aid Society in Delhi. His career as an advocate spans over 16 years and he has been a central government advocate in the Delhi High Court.
However, as Ajay Singh argues in this Firstpost article, Kovind in his years in public life so far comes across as an unassuming and 'conforming constitutionalist'. Singh writes, "He has never flaunted his caste identity for political benefits. His grooming in the RSS enables him to remain firmly rooted to the ideological mooring without courting any controversy. The manner in which he deftly managed his stint as Bihar governor and maintained best of relationship with chief minister Nitish Kumar was illustrative of his political sagacity in managing even difficult situations." Kumar on the other hand has been a through Congress woman prominently airing her views on key policy decisions.
Updated Date: Jun 22, 2017 15:58:58 IST