Presidential poll: Why PM Modi chose Ram Nath Kovind over senior ministers

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(Agencies)  New Delhi : PM Narendra Modi on Monday refused to relieve any member of his Cabinet as NDA’s presidential candidate, tilting the scales in favour of Bihar governor Ram Nath Kovind+ .
Sources said Modi told the BJP’s parliamentary board that sparing members of the Cabinet — home minister Rajnath Singh, foreign minister Sushma Swaraj or social justice minister Thaawarchand Gehlot — would weaken him.
The PM is learnt to have mentioned the departure of Manohar Parrikar, who quit as defence minister to take over as chief minister of Goa+ , as well as the death of environment minister Anil Madhav Dave+ , to argue that he needed to hold on to senior members of his team.
Finance minister Arun Jaitley has been holding additional charge of the defence ministry, while the environment ministry is being looked after by science and technology minister Harsh Vardhan.
Members of the parliamentary board also discussed party veterans L K Advani and Murli Manohar Joshi, who were speculated in certain circles as probables for the presidency, but the twin names did not generate enough conversation. Lok Sabha Speaker Sumitra Mahajan, another speculated probable, figured in the deliberations but failed to find traction with BJP’s top decision-making body. Jharkhand governor Draupadi Murmu, seen as a probable in certain quarters, was discussed along with former deputy Speaker of Lok Sabha Karia Munda. Murmu and Munda, tribals from Odisha and Jharkhand respectively, were seen as possibilities in view of the party’s desire to expand its constituency.Significantly, UP governor Ram Naik was also on the shortlist BJP chief Amit Shah put up before the parliamentary board, sources said. But while he failed to get the nod, his counterpart in Bihar, Kovind, emerged as the choice+ in keeping with the focus of Modi and Shah to woo Dalits.Significantly, UP governor Ram Naik was also on the shortlist BJP chief Amit Shah put up before the parliamentary board, sources said. But while he failed to get the nod, his counterpart in Bihar, Kovind, emerged as the choice+ in keeping with the focus of Modi and Shah to woo Dalits.The outreach has seen BJP trying to identify itself with the legacy of Dalit icon B R Ambedkar and align itself with Dalit players like Ramvilas Paswan, Ramdas Athavale and former Bihar chief minister Jitan Ram Manjhi.No wonder, Shah emphasised Kovind’s caste background as he announced the parliamentary board’s decision. I&B minister Venkaiah Naidu also spoke along similar lines.”He (Kovind) is from a weaker section and belongs to a family of farmers. He has a legal background+ , and twice served as member of Rajya Sabha. He understands social, political and constitutional issues. He is humble and non-controversial,” Naidu said as he appealed to all political parties to support Kovind for the top constitutional office. Paswan too welcomed Kovind’s candidature. “He is the best choice. It’s a brilliant move by the PM. All parties should support him,” he said.