Modi's surprise picks: Yogi, Khattar and now Ram Nath Kovind
A lot has been said about Narendra Modi's working style since he became the prime minister, and even before as chief minister of Gujarat. The one thing that almost all who have talked on the issue, those who agree with him or not, have at least one thing common, that is, he usually gets his way.
This comes not only in his way of working but also who he chooses to assign for such work. This was true when he was in the state and now at the centre.
But a difference that came in after he became the prime minister was that now, he would not only be selecting the bureaucrats that would be running the show but also as the new de facto head of his party, BJP, of which his trusted lieutenant Amit Shah is the President, he would be appointing the leaders who would run the states as chief minister.
This has gained more importance since the party which was once on the fringes of Indian politics, is now in government in 17 states (13 by itself and 4 in coalition). This has led to him and Shah choosing a number of leaders, which were in true Modi fashion, a clear bolt from the blue for not only the general public of the country but also the 'political experts.'
And the latest choice of Ram Nath Kovind as the party's candidate for the post of President of India has seen the Modi-Shah duo stay true to form and catch everyone by surprise. The current choice along with the that of others such as Yogi Adityanath and Manohar Lal Khattar as chief ministers of Haryana and Uttar Pradesh respectively is also a clear sign of the fact that Modi gets Modi wants.
Here is a look at some of Modi's surprise choices so far.
Ram Nath Kovind
The announcement of the Governor of Bihar, Ram Nath Kovind, has just become the latest example of Modi deciding and getting what he wants while others keep speculating.
A number of names were projected and thrown around but the one, maybe which was totally missed was that of Kovind. While some thought the party would go for a consensus candidate, others had imagined a candidate to be chosen from the senior leadership of the party or one of the party veterans such as Murli Manohar Joshi or LK Advani.
None of this came true as Shah announced Kovind's candidature. But though considered a surprise for the post, he has had a long career in politics and social work.
He was elected to Rajya Sabha from the state of Uttar Pradesh during the two terms of 1994-2000 and 2000-2006 and is also a former President of the BJP Dalit Morcha (1998-2002). He also served as national spokesperson for the party. On 8 August 2015, the President of India appointed him the Governor of Bihar. He was also a Central Government Advocate in the Delhi High Court from 1977 to 1979 and Central Government Standing Counsel in Supreme Court from 1980 to 1993. He became Advocate-on-Record of the Supreme Court in 1978.
He was also the Chairman of Rajya Sabha House Committee and has also been a part of various parliamentary committees such as Home Affairs, Social Justice and Empowerment, Welfare of Scheduled Castes/Tribes among others along.
His choice as UP chief minister by the party earlier this year was clearly a surprise and was so not only for those outside the party but even party leaders. What added to it was that the party's win in the state itself was a surprise and the same can be said about the margin of its victory, with the party getting an emphatic majority.
While there were a number of leaders who were thought to be in the running, the announcement of the priest from UP caught everyone off guard. The surprise factor was not due to the fact of his lacking experience as an elected leader, as Yogi was a multiple time MP from the state. It came from that he was seen as the clear choice of the Right, that the BJP is seen as representing.
Considered a Hindu Nationalist leader, he was also the head priest of the Gorakhnath Math, a Hindu temple in Gorakhpur, the constituency from where has been elected to the Lok Sabha five consecutive times.
This along with the fact that though he was a prominent campaigner for the party he was not projected as the candidate for the post, and that he has been in the news various times due to his controversial statements led to everyone being in the dark over his choice.
Manohar Lal Khattar
When the BJP came to power in the state of Haryana in 2014 after winning a majority for the first time in history, the choice of Khattar as the chief minister surprised most and raised quite a few eyebrows inside and outside the party. Though he contested and won the legislative assembly election from Karnal, he was accused of being an 'outsider' when it came to the seat, from within his own party as well as the opposition.
Adding to this was the fact that it was his maiden attempt in electoral politic. He was also the first Non-Jaat chief minister of Haryana a rarity as Jaats are the powerful and influential community in the state.
He had been closely associated with the RSS, which he joined in 1977 and became a full-time pracharak three years later. He moved to the BJP in 1994 after he worked for 14 years as a full-time pracharak. He then worked as an Organisational General Secretary for the party in the state and was then made the party's state election campaign committee for the Lok Sabha elections in 2014.
And after the party gained a majority in the state and it became clear that he was the party leadership's choice, his name was proposed and backed by even those who were earlier considered the favourites for the post.
Such choices have made it clear to all who had any doubts left, that when it comes to making important decisions related to the party and government, the prime minister is the final voice. Though Kovind's choice might be the latest, with two years still left in the current term and one more widely expected, it is safe to assume that this will not be the last.