The NDA acted wisely in choosing Ram Nath Kovind as its candidate for the top job in the country, that of the President of the Republic of India. Unlike some other politicians from his home state Uttar Pradesh or from next door Bihar, the soon-to-be 14th Head of State never sought to do any favours for his family members. Indeed, daughter Swati works with sincerity and efficiency as an air hostess in Air India, with most of her colleagues (till now) being unaware of her VVIP parent. His grandchildren do not swagger about either the national capital or in any state capital accompanied by gun-waving commandos pushing ordinary citizens off pavements, so that they may walk without having to get close to other, less privileged, citizens. Mrs Savita Kovind fully exemplifies the moderate ethos of the family, refusing to step forward into the social whirl, despite her prominence. In their refusal to take advantage of the benefits of having a VVIP relative, the Kovinds are similar to the Modis, who remain committed to a simple lifestyle despite the fact that their own, Narendra Damodardas Modi, has become the Prime Minister of India. As for the Kovind family, they have a multiplicity of qualities and virtues, and it is unfortunate that so much attention has been paid by the BJP’s political rivals to his caste background. Indeed, they went to the extent of confining the choice of their own candidate to a person from the same caste. Of course, it must be added that Mrs Meira Kumar is herself an outstanding candidate, whose charm and patience were on display each day that she was Speaker of an often fractious Lok Sabha during the tenure of the previous government. It is a travesty that two such outstanding individuals have been seen by so many politicians through the single prism of caste, and it is hoped that such a fixation on caste (a form of social organisation whose discriminatory effects are getting lessened steadily owing to the spread of the Knowledge Industry) will get reduced as the nation progresses towards the inevitable status of India as the third superpower, after China and the United States.
It needs to be pointed out that there is a disconnect between the fact of India being a country with 300 million very poor people and the British-era splendour in which the First Citizens of the Republic live. Since the time Lord Louis Mountbatten became the first Governor-General of India and remained in the residence he was earlier occupying as Viceroy of India, the former Viceregal Palace (renamed Rashtrapati Bhawan) has been the official abode of a single individual, the Head of State. “RB” is arguably the most opulent official residence ever in the world, bigger than either Buckingham Palace or the White House, and it needs to be considered at some future date whether the Mountbatten precedent of continuing with the Viceregal Palace needs a relook and the Rashtrapati Bhawan complex be put to other uses. Of course, these are matters that concern the Head of Government and not the Head of State. The noble example of the Father of the Nation, Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, needs to be followed not just in word, but in deed by ensuring that the political leadership of India live their lives more in accordance with the tenets espoused by the Mahatma than has been the case thus far. First Citizen Kovind has shown himself to be a true votary of simplicity and integrity in public life, with not the merest whiff of scandal clouding his long career in politics. His family exemplifies the best traditions of public life by their refusal to embrace the VVIP culture that has continued long after the British rulers have left. India is fortunate in having Ram Nath Kovind as Head of State, and across the world, it is certain that his calm, composed and unaffected demeanour and example will create friends and admirers, just as they have in India. Congratulations, President-Elect Ram Nath Kovind. Greetings to your beloved family. The Sunday Guardian wishes you and them success and honour in the years ahead.