'Are RSS People From Pakistan': BJP Leader To Critics Of President Pick

After BJP named Bihar Governor Ram Nath Kovind as its Presidential candidate, a section of opposition including Mamata Banerjee, Sitaram Yechury and BJP ally Shiv Sena has accused the party of playing Dalit politics

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'Are RSS People From Pakistan': BJP Leader To Critics Of President Pick

Ram Nath Kovind, the Bihar Governor, has been picked by the BJP as its presidential candidate.

New Delhi: 

Highlights

  1. Ram Nath Kovind is the incumbent Governor of Bihar
  2. Trinamool Congress said Governor Kovind is a political unknown
  3. BJP-ally Shiv Sena accuses them of indulging in 'caste-based politics'
Senior BJP leader Kailash Vijayvargiya on Monday brushed off the opposition's contention that Bihar Governor Ram Nath Kovind was picked as the party's Presidential candidate because of his links to the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) the ideological mentor of the BJP. "So what if Kovind is from the RSS? Are RSS people from Pakistan? The nation should be proud that they have a rashtrawadi (nationalist) president," Mr Vijayvargiya said.

What people need to focus on, he said, was the Governor's humble background that offered hope. "A chaiwala (tea seller) Prime Minister and a Dalit President - that's the dream. That a simple man can achieve great heights," he said.  

Union Minister Venkaiah Naidu pointed out that the choice of Governor Kovind should meet all the expectations of the opposition. The minister had been part of the BJP's three-member committee that held talks with senior opposition leaders including Congress Chief Sonia Gandhi and CPM's Sitaram Yechury. His party has said they had not cited any name earlier to keep the discussions open-ended.

On Monday, he said he hoped there won't be opposition to Mr Kovind "because of his background, non-controversial nature, and sound legal and social background".

Governor Kovind's Dalit background - a move by the BJP to consolidate its growing support among backward castes and poorer voters - has placed the opposition in a dilemma on whether to support him or not.

But a section of the opposition, including the Left, Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee and BJP ally Shiv Sena, have accused the BJP of politicising the nation's highest office.  Mr Yechury accused the BJP of "playing politics". "He was the head of an RSS unit. This is a straight political tussle," he said.

The 71-year-old Governor, Ms Banerjee and her party have said, is a political unknown. The BJP, Ms Banerjee said, could have fielded a candidate of "stature" like Pranab Mukherjee, LK Advani or Sushma Swaraj. Even if a Dalit leader had to be chosen, she said there were "other big Dalit leaders" in the country. "He was leader of Dalit Morcha of BJP, so they have made him the candidate."

Disgruntled ally Shiv Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray, too, sided with the opposition to accuse the BJP of indulging in "caste-based politics" for Dalit votes that would "leave the country behind".

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