The office of the President must be above caste, religion and gender | editorials | Hindustan Times
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The office of the President must be above caste, religion and gender

The candidate should not be part of a larger political agenda on the part of either the government or the Opposition. No one doubts the credentials of Ram Nath Kovind or the fact that him being chosen is a victory for equal opportunity

editorials Updated: Jun 24, 2017 10:38 IST
The president ultimately presides over the government and armed forces and should not a partisan or divisive figure. If the government and Opposition were serious about giving the Dalits a level playing field, they must go much beyond this move.
The president ultimately presides over the government and armed forces and should not a partisan or divisive figure. If the government and Opposition were serious about giving the Dalits a level playing field, they must go much beyond this move.

It is par for the course that most appointments to high office are needlessly politicised these days and it would seem that the presidential post is no exception. It is unfortunate that Union minister and Lok Janshakti Party leader Ram Vilas Paswan should have chosen to drag the discourse down by saying that anyone opposing the candidature of Ram Nath Kovind as president will be seen as anti-Dalit. He went on to say this choice was a `tight slap’ for those who branded the Modi government as anti-Dalit. The Opposition meanwhile is said to be trying to put up another Dalit candidate to counter this, further reducing the level of the debate.

The office of the president should be above all caste, religious or gender considerations. The candidate should not be part of a larger political agenda on the part of either the government or the Opposition. No one doubts the credentials of Ram Nath Kovind or the fact that him being chosen is a victory for equal opportunity. Similarly, when KR Narayanan became president much was made of his Dalit credentials, quite overlooking his distinguished diplomatic career. The media is adding to the politicisation by terming the choice as a masterstroke and one which has taken the wind out of the Opposition’s sails. The president ultimately presides over the government and armed forces and should not a partisan or divisive figure. If the government and Opposition were serious about giving the Dalits a level playing field, they must go much beyond this move. The Dalits need education, healthcare and jobs, something which politicians pay lip service to come elections. They are also often subject to caste violence and ostracisation in a hidebound casteist society. This should be addressed.

In recent times, we have seen attacks on Dalits in various parts of the country. This is what should exercise political parties. As of now, it would seem that the NDA has the numbers to carry the day. Even if the Opposition were to put up a candidate, and it seems likely that it will, all parties should resolve to keep the discussion from degenerating into a political fight. As of now, the NDA is being accused of playing the Dalit card. This is to do a disservice to Kovind who has come up on his own merit and has not played any card. The office of the first citizen should really float above the fray and if going forward, the debate can be kept as non-partisan as possible, this would set the right benchmark for the future.