Prez Poll: Who Will Be Modi’s Next ‘Yes Man’?

Modi will utilise the Presidential poll to show that he is the only leader who matters in India, argue Sunil Gatade and Venkatesh Kesari.
So the question being asked in political circles is: ‘Who will be the next Kovind?’

Abu Abraham‘s famous cartoon after a state of Emergency was declared in June 1975 showed then President Fakruddin Ali Ahmed having a bath and being asked to sign the Emergency ordinance through a slightly open door.

It showed with telling effect how sometimes Presidents were turned into ‘yes men’ by powerful prime ministers seeking to have their way by hook or crook.

The message is loud and clear. Strong prime ministers generally like pliant Presidents who virtually have to be at their beck and call and do their bidding whenever called upon to do so.

The signal from strong leaders is that they are the centre of the universe and that everyone else including the President should revolve around them.

They are the sun emanating all the energy and have the power to burn any satellite which acts truant.

It is but natural that Prime Minister Narendra Damodardas Modi alone will be zeroing on the next Presidential candidate of the ruling alliance and no other leader will have any effective say.

In fact, no other leader besides Home Minister Amit Anilchandra Shah is likely to be involved in the exercise.

Ditto as had happened in 2017 when veterans in the Bharatiya Janata Party were unaware of Ram Nath Kovind’s choice made by Modi-Shah.

With the clock ticking for the July 18 Presidential poll, Modi, who is projected by the faithful as the most powerful leader India has produced since Independence, is now busy choosing outgoing President Kovind’s successor .

By the way, Modi is betting big that Kovind has been a success story for him. If political observers are to be believed, Kovind has fulfilled all what was expected of him without stirring even a minor controversy.

But a second term for Kovind appears unlikely. The ruling side has given no indications so far that it is in not in a mood to say goodbye to the 76-year-old Rashtrapati after an uneventful term.

As the search begins for a successor to Kovind, one thing is almost sure that there will be no promotion for Vice President M Venkaiah Naidu, who is perceived as ‘too independent’ by the powers that be.

Naidu is unlikely to get a second term as vice president like his predecessor.

Sonia Gandhi was happy with Hamid Ansari and would have elevated him as President if she had her way.

Karnataka Governor Thawarchand Gehlot, who had been leader of the Rajya Sabha, is seen as one of the likely choices.

The Dalit leader from Madhya Pradesh is a non controversial, amiable and low profile loyalist just like Kovind was.

Uttar Pradesh Governor Anandiben Patel to whom Modi had entrusted Gujarat when he moved to New Delhi in May 2014 is also seen as a possible Presidential candidate of the ruling alliance.

If talk in the BJP is to be believed, if Anandiben fails to go to Rashtrapati Bhavan, she would surely be made vice president.

The Vice Presidential poll is also due shortly.

While no one knows Modi’s mind, two governors close to him include Jagdeep Dhankar of Bengal and Ganeshi Lal of Odisha.

Dhankar is a Jat leader from Rajasthan while Lal is a Bhagavad Gita scholar from Haryana.

Another governor whom the prime minister trusts is Arif Mohammed Khan of Kerala.

But Khan is known to be an ambitious leader and is unlikely to fit in the Modi scheme of things.

Besides, Modi, who has come to power on the Hindutva plank, is unlikely to think of a President from Muslim community unless he wants to give a signal globally that he does not discriminate between religions.

An Opposition leader, however, wryly brushed aside such an idea.

“How can you expect Modi to make a Muslim as President when he has not allowed his guru L K Advani to become Rashtrapati?” he asks.

  • You Read It On Rediff First! Presidential Poll On July 18

While the early Presidents were either stalwarts in the freedom struggle or exceptional academics, the President who was first dubbed a prime minister’s ‘rubber stamp’ was V V Giri, Indira Gandhi’s candidate during days of turmoil in the Congress in the late 1960s.

Zail Singh was given the top Constitutional post for being an Indira loyalist, but became a rebel when her successor Rajiv Gandhi failed to build a rapport with him.

In Kovind, the country has virtually seen a faceless President as the ‘strong leader’ has failed to share the limelight with the Rashtrapati even a bit.

Given Modi’s style of functioning, he must have made up his mind and sounded out the next Presidential candidate of the ruling alliance telling him/her to ‘be ready’ and ‘lie low’ till the announcement is made.

Kovind’s candidature was a surprise for all including veterans in the BJP.

Modi has not said so openly, but it is common knowledge that he has no plans to retire soon.

So the prime minister must ensure that his man firmly is in place in Rashtrapati Bhavan ahead of the 2024 Lok Sabha election.

It depends entirely on the President whom to invite to form the next government if the Lok Sabha election throws up a hung verdict.

The BJP’s first brush with power at the Centre had come in May 1996 when the Lok Sabha election had thrown up a hung verdict.

Shankar Dayal Sharma, the President at that time, had appointed Atal Bihari Vajpayee as prime minister.

As of now, Modi has nothing to worry about. A third term for him looks certain. At the same time, a week is a long time in politics and here there are nearly two years to the parliamentary polls.

The failure of the Opposition parties to get their act together so far in putting up a common candidate is a welcome development for the prime minister.

Modi is expected to drive a wedge in the Opposition amid reports that parties like the Biju Janata Dal in Odisha and the Yuvajana Sramika Rythu Congress Party in Andhra Pradesh are unlikely to side with anti-BJP forces.

Amid moves to forge consensus for an Opposition-backed candidate, Sharad Pawar quietly nipped in the bud a proposal to prop him up as a nominee.

Modi is a past master in the game of politics and therefore he is expected to further utilise the Presidential poll to show to the world that he is the only leader who matters in India.

So the question being asked in political circles is: ‘Who will be the next Kovind?’

Feature Presentation: Aslam Hunani/

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