Kalam to Kovind
Journey of BJP
In 2002, NDA under Vajpayee, proposed the name of APJ Abdul Kalam as its Presidential candidate. In 2017, a far stronger NDA under Modi proposes the name of a career politician Ram Nath Kovind for the same post.
The choices & the underlying narrative couldn't be starker. Vajpayee promoting Kalam was primarily a sign of his statesmanship. Of course, the secondary benefit NDA accrued was that Kalam's name evoked immense respect amongst the citizens too for the sheer contribution Kalam had made to India's security. Needless to say, Kalam got spontaneous support from non NDA parties too to become one of India's most admired presidents.
15 years on, NDA which has a massive 49% votes compared to opposition's paltry 35% & 13% non-aligned votes in the electors collegium, choosing Kovind as its candidate is a consummate statement in itself. BJP president Amit Shah, while announcing Kovind's candidature, described him thus : "Kovindji has worked tirelessly for the Dalit community & the backward castes". This caste calculus, coming from BJP which pomps itself about a singular Bharat where caste, creed etc becoming irrelevant in a Hindu ocean reflects the imminent jitters within the BJP.
Kovind's promotion is an unambiguous acceptance by BJP that it is now unsure of its popularity, hence it is skeptical of its numbers in the presidential election. Its wobble is amplified by the fact that presidential polling is paradoxically not conducted via the trusted EVM's, rather thro secret ballot on paper with no whip. This essentially compounds BJP's nervousness as presidential electors (MLA's & MP's) will vote as per their conscience & in BJP's assessment its unpopularity may not even fetch it its guaranteed 49% votes.
Common sense would have dictated BJP to propose a renowned publicly adulated figures (media too reported it) like Justice Santosh Hegde, E Sreedharan, Amitabh Bacchan etc. However, choosing a career politician & highlighting his lineage only points out the obvious BJP disquietude.
The choice of Kovind is clearly reflective of a defensive BJP on its back foot which knows it has lost considerable ground of public support vis a vis its politics of polarization, DeMo fiasco, farmers anger, parochial policies, economic slowdown, UP governance failure to name a few issues.
In the short term, by promoting Kovind, BJP plans to wash off its anti dalit image & at the same time ensure his victory with non NDA support. However, by not putting up a national icon as nominee, the BJP is acknowledging its malgovernance mea culpa aloud.
Via Kovind, BJP admits the fact that the 2014 Acche Din popularity bubble has burst & it is in a jittery state of trepidation about the next general elections.