This article on election of President was used by TOI Online.
You can read a version of the article below:
When Ram Nath Kovind was declared as the Presidential candidate of the BJP and its allies, Bengal chief minister Mamta Banerjee reportedly asked journalists: Who is this Ram Nath Kovind?
And she was not the only one asking.
Many people on social media said that he is a social ‘nobody’ and a political ‘lightweight’. They had not heard of him and they felt that the BJP had compromised the post of President and nominated a Dalit simply for vote bank politics.
Ram Nath Kovind is the Governor of Bihar. He has been the Personal Secretary to former Prime Minister Morarji Desai. He was a practising advocate in High Court and Supreme Court for almost two decades. He was a Rajya Sabha Member from BJP for two terms and actively participated in parliamentary committees. He was the president of BJP Dalit Morcha. He was a Board member of Indian Institute of Management and he has represented India at United Nations.
You can, of course, have an opinion that this is not an exceptional resume to become the President of India but the fact is that it still Better than some others who have served in this august office. What seems to be not working in his favour is that he is simply not as well-known as other leaders.
He is not ‘one of us’.
But why has he remained unknown despite having served in political echelons? What made him invisible to media and public eye? How did we fail to notice him?
Political scientist Swapan Dasgupta wrote on Twitter: “The question “Kovind who?” is a commentary on the state of political journalism in India. An ecosystem based on babalog & inheritor “sources”.”
What I did not mention earlier is that Kovind was also the national spokesperson of the BJP in 2010. Being a spokesperson meant that he was available for comments and interviews. But, we saw very little of him, heard very little of him even as he sat in the BJP media room available for anyone with a mic, camera or notepad. He was the party mouthpiece but his voice still did not matter.
Perhaps those who were in the business of deciding what is news did not see him as a voice that mattered. Senior journalist Nitin Gokhle wrote on twitter: “There is an unwritten hierarchy for guests in news TV. Call it race or caste bais, that’s the harsh reality.”
In those years, many journalists avoided Kovind. Perhaps, for media persons, he was not as cool and up market as other spokespersons. Perhaps reporters themselves had made opinion that few will be interested in Ram Nath Kovind when he would appear on TV.
The most candid admission comes from a journalist who wrote in a Facebook post recently that reporters at that time were not interested in taking a sound bite from Kovind. He writes, “But we — folks with the all powerful mike — would wait all day for Ravi Shankar Prasad or Rajiv Pratap Rudy or even Prakash Javdekar. And we would never take Kovind’s byte.”
He went on to say that the blame did not just rest with the reporters. Those sitting in media offices and deciding the direction of debates were also equally responsible. “On desperate days when others could be unavailable, I would check with my desk and they would still refuse his bite,” he wrote.
Kovind, however, was neither the first nor the last to be thus ignored. Another senior journalist Mritunjay Kumar Jha said that the now Prime Minister Narendra Modi too faced a similar situation in his political career. “I remember when Narendra Modi used to stay in BJP HQ, everyone used to take his byte but editors in studio wouldn’t allow to put it on air,” he wrote on Twitter.
While Kovind today is poised to sit in the highest constitutional seat of the county, there are thousands others like him who are waiting to be seen and heard. We often relegate caste-based biases to institutions that profess traditional lineage and norms but forget that these biases in fact permeate all levels of social structures, including institutions that may look modern and claim to be neutral.
The only way to be sure is to question, without fear or bias.
Today, Ram Nath Kovind truly represents the aspirations of the country’s neo middle-class which is constantly pushing and breaking the old boundaries. By choosing Kovind as the presidential candidate, Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the BJP leadership have chosen one who waded his way through the margins into the mainstream despite all odds.
Kovind fought off the dark realities of our society and made his own place. His nomination as the presidential candidate of the ruling alliance is a tribute to all the invisible citizens stranded at the margins and striving to join the mainstream – waiting to be heard and known.