While many saw his comment as a move to woo Dalit voters away from the BJP, it drew sharp criticism from the saffron party.
Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot on Wednesday said that the Narendra Modi government appointed Ramnath Kovind as the President because of his caste ahead of the 2017 Gujarat Elections, to appease the Dalit community.
“Kyunki Gujarat ke chunaav aa rahe the, vo ghabra chuke the ki humari sarkar Gujarat mein nahi ban’ne ja rahi hai…..mera aisa maan’na hai ki Ramnath Kovind ji ko banaya (President), jaatiya sammeekaran baithane ke liye aur Advani sahab chhut gaye. (Because elections were coming in Gujarat and they were worried because our government was going to be formed in the state. I think that Ramnath Kovind was appointed President, to balance the caste arithmetic, hence Advani was left behind)”
While many saw his comment as a move to woo Dalit voters away from the BJP, it drew sharp criticism from the saffron party. Addressing a press conference, BJP spokesperson GVL Narsimha Rao slammed the Congress over its leader’s comment, saying that it had violated the electoral decorum.
“We appeal to the election Commission to take cognizance of the matter of giving such a statement to the President of the country and give notice to Ashok Gehlot and ask him to apologise,” Rao said.
Accusing the Congress of politicising the office of the President of India, Rao added that the Rajasthan Chief Minister made wrong statements against the President of the country.
He attacked the Congress party and asked if it was against the poor. “Is Congress against the poor, against the President who comes from a Dalit community? Despite being a capable person and a knowledgeable person, the Congress used the community to defame the President and entire society and country along with him.”
Kovind was appointed President on 25 July 2017. Kovind was born as the youngest of five brothers and two sisters on 1 October 1945 in Kanpur’s Paraunkh village in Uttar Pradesh in a Kori family. President Kovind holds an LLB from Kanpur University’s DAV college. His political career started after he joined the BJP in 1991 and came into prominence when he became the President of BJP Dalit Morcha in 1998. The 73-year-old also served as national spokesperson of the saffron party and on the Board of Governors of IIM Calcutta. Kovind also represented India at the UN and in October 2002 addressed the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA).
In August 2015, the Kovind was appointed as the Governor of Bihar. While earlier Chief Minister of Bihar Nitish Kumar had criticised his appointment which came months prior to the state Assembly polls, Kumar later praised him for setting up a judicial commission to probe irregularities in promotion of undeserving teachers, mismanagement of funds and appointment of undeserving candidates in universities.
Ashok Gehlot also noted how senior leader LK Advani was sidelined ahead of the elections. Both senior leaders of the BJP – Murli Manohar Joshi and LK Advani were not given tickets to contest the Lok Sabha 2019 polls.
LK Advani and MM Joshi were sidelined in the party after 2014 general elections, in which the BJP got a clear majority under the leadership of Narendra Modi.