The political dust has settled. After nearly a month or so of speculations over who would be the National Democratic Alliance's choice as candidate for the presidential election to be held next month, Ram Nath Kovind has been declared the chosen one.
And for all the time spent by 'political experts' including analysts, leaders from the ruling party, BJP, and the opposition, and journalists among others, in front of cameras during prime time, and column inches in newspapers and magazines, the choice of the Governor of Bihar as the President has come as what can be described as nothing but a bolt from the blue.
Every one was proven wrong, except may be the ones who said that no one will know till the duo of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his trusted Lieutenant, BJP President, Amit Shah, will chose to declare it, and that it was likely not to happen much before they announce it to the public.
So such a surprise choice and the secrecy behind the selection along with nature of the declaration raise's the obvious question- Why was Kovind, though with a long and somewhat decorated political career, selected as the party's candidate to be the first Citizen of the country by the Modi-Shah duo?
He is Modi and Shah's choice. Period!
For all the merits that Kovind might be assumed or argued to have, it was the other part of the question that holds the answer in it. The fact that he was Modi and Shah's choice is the key to understanding why he will in all likelihood be 14th President of India.
The one point that the decision has made clear, and which the prime minister and the BJP president were most probably most keen to get across, was that when it comes to the important issues, of the party and the government, it is them that have the final say.
With the amount of interest and speculation on various names that the nomination had generated, including statements from the party's allies and opponents, the RSS, among others, it has been clearly pointed out that while their views will be heard, when push comes to shove, it is only what the head of the government and the party want that happens.
The duo, like in the case of other choices and decisions made by the government and the party such as the 'Demonetisation' exercise or choice of chief ministers, which did not follow conventional political logic, marked their stamp on both, leaving little room for doubt as to who is in charge.
Outwitting the opposition
The elections for the President usually never garner as much interest as they have done this time. This was different as it was the first time that the BJP was in a position to get a man of their choice into the Rashtrapati Bhavan, which in majority of cases have till date been the Congress party's choice.
Even when the NDA under the BJP was in power during Atal Bihari Vajpayee's time and the time to elect a new President came it had to nominate, APJ Abdul Kalam, who though extremely popular, was far from the first choice but had to be named due to lack of enough votes to win.
And the present circumstances though better than that time, still had the potential to turn into a similar situation where either the NDA's choice would have had to face a tough election or a name of consensus candidate would have had to been put forward so as to get the desired numbers.
The nomination of Kovind seems to have done away with that problem as well. It had been calculated before the nomination that the BJP would need the support of either Tamil Nadu's AIADMK or Odisha's BJD, which is on the opposite side of the political fight in the state with BJP, for getting their candidate elected.
This seems to have taken care of following Kovind being named as the candidate with opposition parties slowly coming forward to show their support for his candidature. These include Mayawati's BSP and the BJD, among others.
And while the point that the choice of Kovind, a Dalit, is a major attempt at political social engineering by the party is being harped upon by political analysts and is being dubbed as the major reason for his choice, these are nothing but attempts at making some sense of a totally surprising nomination.
Especially since if this was the main thinking behind naming him, they could have easily named selected any other more visible face from the community, which would have garnered the party even more support.
Instead a simple fact is that the choice of a Dalit though earns the party political points on that front, and helps it in its attempt to gain another vote bank, it is the difficulty of rejecting or opposing such a choice that the opposition will have that would have also been a major consideration.
On top of all this the decision seems to have set the cat among the pigeons as the opposition, that was trying to come together and name a candidate which would have a fair chance of beating the BJP's nominee, will now also have to nominate a person from the same social background so as to try to avoid a splintering off of parties from a united front, something that already seems to be happening.
In any case, it has left the entire opposition in a difficult position as opposing his election without putting forward a Dalit face, as its own choice would be politically damaging. And all its hopes of the ruling party putting forward a name which could be accused of being a communal choice or of a leader who would be considered a compromise and so could be termed a victory of the opposition, seem to have been lost now.
RSS and Modi's consensus candidate
While everything between the government and the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, would seem to be rosy on the face of it, the fact that there is a constant tussle between the two, in particular between the party leadership of Modi and Shah, and the RSS is no secret.
These include the organisations attempt to put forward its agenda through not only cultural methods but also through appointing leaders in important seats such as chief ministers of various states. The RSS also sees this as an attempt to not only to be in the main stream of public discourse but also a way of being accepted as a new normal.
Such demands for seats in various state governments and ministries at the centre at times goes against the political judgments and requirements of Modi, as the prime minister and the leader of the party. This along with the feeling in the RSS that the prime minister has not done enough to pay back for the support shown to his campaign for the Lok Sabha elections in 2014 and state election thereafter have been sources of tension between the two.
In addition, the attempt by the Sangh was to be able in a position to get the nominee of its choice who would not only be seen as a clear RSS man and be able to make the say that it has on issues apparent. Election of such a person would have also been able to make it possible to keep the government in check with the little powers and extreme prestige that a President has.
But the choice of Kovind will not fit into such a criteria for the Sangh, as even though he has been associated with it he was not a leader of the kind of Yogi Adityanath, for the RSS to give out its desired narrative.
And this is where choosing him has given Modi the advantage of not only showing that he has the control over such crucial decision, he has also given a way out to the RSS from the now tricky situation by being able to point towards having one of their own as the President, even though the person was not their choice.
In addition to this, Kovind who has a clean image as a political leader, and who has been a Rajya Sabha member for two terms, also gives Modi the chance to play down the controversies surrounding the choice of a Hindu nationalist leader such as Yogi Adityanath as the chief minister of Uttar Pradesh, a choice widely thought to have been made by the RSS.
A similar choice for the President could have been disastrous for the government, particularly as it is as already facing growing criticism over the incidents over 'cow vigilantism' in the country. And even though it would not have led to a defeat in the next Lok Sabha elections or state elections, it could have been the cause of a fall in numbers of seats, which would have been treated the same as a defeat by the opposition.
So through Kovind, the Modi-Shah duo have not only been successfully able to navigate the RSS hurdle but also provide an escape route to it which would ensure that the situation would not lead to major problems in their relationship, in the present or the near future.
President and not a hurdle for Modi
For all the other political reasons that the choice would be considered important, the most crucial reason that a Prime Minster has for getting a President of his choice boils down to the ease of running a government.
And this is where Modi among all the alternatives that must have been presented to him, would have wanted to have someone he could trust on such matters. As though the President has limited powers in the functioning of the government, the post if occupied by a person who is at odds with the government's agenda could turn it into a serious issue.
This is considered one of the reasons that he was not keen on any of the party veterans such LK Advani and Murli Manohar Joshi, who he is reported to not have the best of relations with, to be backed for the post. Their involvement in the Babri Masjid demolition case on which the courts have ordered framing of charges against them could not have come at a better time for the prime minister, especially if the RSS had tried to push either one of them.
Under such a criteria of President not becoming a hurdle for his government, Kovind, though an experienced legislature but still a considerable political lightweight cannot be seen as a threat for the government trying to implement its agenda. This point would have definitely gone in his favour.
Along with these, his already being in a constitutional post of being a Governor, makes sure that he is well versed in the function of the government and the nature of the relationship between the elected government and the constitutional head, which should rule out chances of there being any surprises for the central government. This is important, as the next President would be in charge during the next general elections and for a majority of the time that Modi is expected to be the prime minister.
In addition to these points it also has to be remembered that the ever since Modi began his Lok Sabha campaign, and some would say even before, he has also been in complete control of the narrative around him at all times, or at least has tried to be.
And the current selection follows such a way thinking. With three years of his government completed, any doubts that things might be getting out of hand for Modi and Shah have been clearly quashed. With the duo showing that not only are they in control of the electoral politics with victories in state elections following one after the other, but also when it comes to their own party, the challenge of the opposition and that from the RSS.
On top of that they have just made it clear that no matter what 'experts' might try to predict about them, they will always be a step ahead and will continue to make it apparent that it is they who are in charge.