Ram Nath Kovind’s RS focus: Dalit welfare, not so much Hindutva

On March 14, 1995, Kovind expressed concern over the telecast of eight to 10 films on DD’s national network, and asked if the government was aware that children were wasting most of their time watching films and serials.

Written by Pradeep Kaushal , Shyamlal Yadav | New Delhi | Updated: June 20, 2017 3:47 pm
ram nath kovind, kovind neighbours, kovind kanpur home, kovind kanpur neighbours, NDA presidential candidate Patna: Bihar Governor Ram Nath Kovind, NDA’s presidential candidate, waves at the media as he leaves for Delhi, at Raj Bhavan in Patna on Monday. (Source: PTI Photo)

During his two terms in Rajya Sabha from April 1994 to March 2006, Ram Nath Kovind showed no major inclination to push the BJP’s Hindutva agenda. His focus was rather on problems faced by the Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes, the poor, and industrial workers — or, on other, more general, issues.

One of the rare occasions when he raised a Hindutva-related matter was through an unstarred question on March 18, 1997, when he sought to know if the government had been “requested to issue instructions for (a) live telecast of Srikrishna Janma Mahotswa from Dwarkasheesh, Gujarat, like live telecast of Krishna Janma celebration from Mathura and Rath Yatra celebration from Jagannathpuri”. Then Information & Broadcasting Minister C M Ibrahim said a request had indeed been received; however, because of the “non-availability of DOT Microwave link for transmission of coverage signal from Dwarka to Ahmedabad/Delhi”, Doordarshan could not telecast the celebrations “live”.

Kovind flagged cross-border infiltration into Jammu and Kashmir, asking the government through an unstarred question on July 27, 1994, whether it was aware that “terrorists from Pakistan” had “infiltrated into the upper regions of high mountains in Kathua and Udhampur districts” and driven out local Gujjars and Gadis from their huts.

On March 14, 1995, Kovind expressed concern over the telecast of eight to 10 films on DD’s national network, and asked if the government was aware that children were wasting most of their time watching films and serials. Minister of State for I&B K P Singh Deo replied that only three feature films, including one regional film, were being shown per week, apart from a children’s film every month. Parents and guardians could regulate their wards’ exposure to TV, Singh Deo said.
Some of the NDA presidential nominees other significant interventions in Rajya Sabha (translated from the Hindi):

* March 31, 1995: “I want to call the attention of this House and of the whole country to the involvement of the Agra Police administration with activities of the ISI. On Holi, March 18, 1995, some 20-25 Muslims led by one Badshah attacked Dalits with sticks and guns… The attackers were protected by police as they entered the homes of the victims…”

* May 9, 1997: “Whether it is diversification, misutilisation or misappropriation of funds (allocated to the Ministry of Social Welfare), it is not good for these (marginalised) communities. It shows that the government is not serious about the welfare of these communities… I am surprised how, in the absence of data on these communities, we can prepare welfare schemes and plans for them…”

* September 1, 1997: [When discussing reservation for SCs] people talk of suitability. There is no mention (of suitability) in the Constitution… In politics, candidates of reserved categories contest from reserved constituencies, and voters elect the person they find suitable. People elected from reserved seats never lack in performance. When that is true for reservation in politics, why can’t it be so for reservation in services?”

* June 5, 1998: Both in the Constitution and in political ideology, we say casteism is dangerous for this country. But when the time comes for ticket distribution and candidate selection, the primary criterion that is applied is of caste. Publicly, we say we have to remove caste from society, but while selecting candidates, the question that is asked in party meetings is which candidate’s caste has a majority in a particular area. Every party fields a candidate from the majority caste… We should develop a mechanism to address this issue…”

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