The Man Who Won’t Be President

L K Advani would have been the most fitting Sangh Parivar choice for the post.

Written by Karan Thapar | Updated: June 21, 2017 12:13 am
Presidential candidate, ram nath kovind, lal krishna advani, bjps presidential candidate, presidential elections Many believe Lal Krishna Advani is the architect who laid the foundation for the party’s political success. (File)

The Bharatiya Janata Party’s decision to choose Ram Nath Kovind as its candidate for president raises three questions and I’m not sure if the answers will please Messrs. Narendra Modi and Amit Shah: Who is Mr Kovind? Why was he chosen? And is he the most fitting member of the Sangh Parivar for this high office?

For all his unblemished career as an advocate, a two-term Rajya Sabha MP and, most recently, Governor of Bihar, Kovind is for most of us an unknown entity. He may well be a good and principled man but is that sufficient to be President of India? Should not the person chosen have distinctions that are widely recognised so that he can be said to adorn the office rather than simply occupy it? The President has no political powers but he does have enormous influence and he is the symbol of our nation. He, therefore, needs to be someone we look up to and not a person we have questions about. However, despite these doubts, there is clearly one good reason why Kovind was chosen. He’s a Dalit and, therefore, represents the party the BJP wishes to become. As its strives to shed its elite Brahmin image, Kovind is the quotidian man-of-the-masses face it hopes will appeal to the voters it seeks to attract.

This is a political decision every party has a right to take even if it’s somewhat of a gamble. One can differ with the BJP’s calculations but that is hardly convincing grounds for disagreeing with the choice. However, it’s the answer to the third question that could provide grounds for believing Kovind is the wrong pick. This is because there is a more fitting member of the Sangh Parivar who should have been its choice — Lal Krishna Advani. I have several reasons for making this claim. Let me, briefly, mention the really important ones. To begin with, Advani is highly distinguished and this is widely acknowledged. He’s therefore one of the best-known faces of the BJP. Many believe he’s the architect who laid the foundation for the party’s political success. And in his personal life he’s lived by admirable moral standards. He would certainly have adorned the office.

Second, choosing Advani would have shown that Modi has put behind him and even forgotten the differences he has with him including, in particular, Advani’s opposition to his candidature for prime ministership in 2013. That would have been an act of magnanimity that could have proven Modi’s large-heartedness. Actually, it might even have established he was the greater man of the two. Third, although some opposition parties are supporting Kovind many more might have supported Advani. Some would have voted for him because of his differences with Modi. Others because of their earlier association with him and undoubted respect. Mamata Banerjee and Nitish Kumar almost certainly fall into the second category, whilst it’s conceivable that Sonia Gandhi might have been persuaded to fit herself into the first. There’s a fourth reason too. I’m sure choosing Advani would have had greater resonance with the BJP’s membership as well as its wider support base whilst choosing . Kovind might easily make some, if not several, question why it wasn’t them.

Let me however end with a personal reason for preferring Advani. For me it proves he has the moral quality necessary to be President of India. In 1990, when he was Leader of the Opposition and I was an unknown journalist, I interviewed him for Eyewitness, a video magazine I edited at the time. A short time later, when I next met him, I asked what he thought of the interview. He tersely replied he had been told it was a travesty. Then he abruptly turned his back and walked away.

Stunned by this behaviour I sent him a VHS of the interview and asked him to see it for himself. I was confident he had been misled. Weeks or months went by without any response. In fact, I gave up expecting one. Then, suddenly, late one summer evening the phone rang. It was Advani. “Karan, I’ve just seen the interview and there was absolutely nothing wrong with it. I was clearly misinformed. However, I’m too old to make that excuse and I’m afraid I behaved badly when we last met. I’m ringing to apologise.” A man who has the wisdom and courage to say sorry is someone I would trust to safeguard our democracy and our values as President.

The writer is president of Infotainment Television and a TV anchor.

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  1. I
    Jul 20, 2017 at 7:44 pm
    Karan Thapar, I wonder what you would say next that pitches you, as usual, against India’s interests. Don’t write on Dalit issue anymore for there will be no Dalit label but only Indian citizens living in dignity and self-respect now that Sh. Ram Nath Kovind is our president. Read your write-up aloud several times until it dawns on you that your opinion holds no water in the Congress-free India.
    1. M
      Jun 30, 2017 at 8:07 am
      Karan Thapar is Another Congress/Sonia stooge trying relentlessly till his last breath to bring back the Congress to power.
      1. P
        P. Barakat
        Jun 24, 2017 at 2:06 pm
        With respect, Mr. KT. Please, let us be reminded, at the time of Srt. Indira Gandhi, they (people surrounding her) tried everything to stay in power. Differences is information, this time, everyone in and out of India is more (well) informed : (1) about what is what, and, why and, how! (2) Mr.Modi is responsible to make the India a better place for everyone in India, and, therefore, he is also responsible to develop a better image of India. (3) unlike Smt dira, Mr.Modi also aware that he has to make sustainable harmony among various types of groups in India. Perhaps, except the beneficiaries no group of people were agree with Smt. Indira, the ultimate reason of her failure! (4) we wish, in his term as a Prime Minister, Mr. Modi may do as per the responsibilities of a prime minister of the democratic India, My India he (Mr. Modi) always used to say "he has a lot of work to do" May the Lord-of-the-universe help all those who want to stay upon the straight path of the success.
        1. ankur bose
          Jun 23, 2017 at 12:23 pm
          So many closet fans of Sri Advani have appeared overnight....reminds me of sudden appearance of mushrooms after a shower. Since Lutyns media, Secular Politicians Socialites support Advani ji so much, I'm now sure he would have been the wrong choice
          1. R
            Jun 22, 2017 at 8:58 pm
            Mr. Kovind has Mr. Advani's blessings and that is what matters ! KT and IE are wasting media space in just another in a series of their juvenile bids to show NDA's decisiions are wrong in whatever they do......that is the job of such obsessively anti-BJP media. The objective clearly in the present context is not their solidarity with Advani but to make a case for creating rifts within the RSS-BJP combine between those who support Advani's candidature and those who don't.....what this self-claimed intellectual-morons in KT and IE can't see is that Mr. Advani and the entire RSS-BJP has risen above the presidency many a time ..... they are all fully dedicated to the cuase of the Nation which has been kept 65yrs behind the rest of the world by such cancerous-congressi traces in people like KT and media-houses like IE !
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