rediff.com

NewsApp (Free)

Read news as it happens
Download NewsApp

Available on  

Rediff News  All News 
Rediff.com  » News » 'There would be so many Ram Nath Kovinds in the country today'

'There would be so many Ram Nath Kovinds in the country today'

July 21, 2017 10:04 IST

'...getting drenched in the rains, doing farm work, labour and sweating it out so that they can get their evening meals.'
'I want to tell them that this Ram Nath Kovind of Paraunkh village is going to Rashtrapati Bhavan as their representative.'
Archis Mohan reports.

In the fourth week of May, Ram Nath Kovind was called to New Delhi to meet Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

The 71 year old assumed that the meeting had something to do with his gubernatorial assignment in Bihar, but was surprised to be told that he was one of the nine names being considered for the National Democratic Alliance's Presidential candidate.

Unlike some of the other nominees, Kovind's name was not discussed in the media.

Even his closest friends and relatives had no idea that Kovind could succeed Pranab Mukherjee as India's President until Bharatiya Janata Party President Amit Shah announced the Dalit lawyer's candidature following the BJP Parliamentary Board meeting on June 19.

Kovind's ability to keep a low profile was not the only reason that Modi and Shah handpicked him.

By making Kovind, a Dalit from Uttar Pradesh, the BJP-led NDA's Presidential nominee, Modi and Shah took the Opposition by surprise, which was forced to recalibrate its strategy to name Congress leader Meira Kumar, Dalit icon Babu Jagjivan Ram's daughter, as its nominee.

But the damage was already done to Opposition unity.

Kovind's candidature led to a split in the Opposition, with the Nitish Kumar-led Janata Dal-United, Naveen Patnaik's Biju Janata Dal, and several regional parties announcing they would vote for the NDA candidate.

If the move caused hiccups in the JD-U-Rashtriya Janata Dal and Congress 'grand alliance' in Bihar, it also contributed to Bahujan Samaj Party chief Mayawati quitting her Rajya Sabha membership.

Ever since performing miserably in the Uttar Pradesh assembly polls, Mayawati has been in search for a cause that could help her reclaim her party's Dalit support base.

Kovind's choice has strengthened the BJP's newfound support among non-Jatav Dalits.

On Thursday, July 20, the result was on expected lines.

Kovind received 65.65 per cent of the electoral college votes.

Congress leaders claimed Kumar's were the second-highest number of votes that a runner-up had ever received in 13 previous Presidential elections.

But there was some embarrassment for the Congress, with some of its legislators in Gujarat having voted not for Kumar, but Kovind.

There were instances of cross-voting in favour of Kovind in some other states too.

Kovind will take the oath of office on July 25.

He is only the second Dalit, after K R Narayanan (1997 to 2002), who will become India's head of State.

After the results, an emotional Kovind reminisced about his journey from a mud-walled house in Paraunkh, his ancestral village in Kanpur Dehat, to become the 14th President of India.

"It is raining a lot in Delhi today and it reminds me of days when I would stay in my paternal village. It was a kachcha home of mud walls," the President-elect remembered.

"The straw roof would not be able to stop water during rains. We brothers and sisters would huddle around a wall, waiting for the rains to stop."

"There would be so many Ram Nath Kovinds in the country today, getting drenched in the rains, doing farm work, labour and sweating it out so that they can get their evening meals."

"I want to tell them that this Ram Nath Kovind of Paraunkh village is going to Rashtrapati Bhavan as their representative."

With Kovind's election, and Muppavarapu Venkaiah Naidu set to be the vice-president, it will be for the first time in 70 years that the two Constitutional heads as well as the head of government, the prime minister, will be associated with the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh.

Kovind is also the first BJP member to be elected President of India.

Kovind has been a two-term Rajya Sabha member (1994 to 2000 and 2000 to 2006).

He has also been a BJP spokesperson and the head of its Dalit Morcha.

Months before the Bihar assembly polls in October 2015, Kovind was appointed Bihar governor.

He has been a lawyer and associated with the RSS' Dalit outreach for over 40 years.

He has also served as a member on the board of management of Ambedkar University, Lucknow, and was a member of the board of governors of the Indian Institute of Management-Calcutta.

Kovind is married and has a son and a daughter. His wife Savita accompanied him during his election-related campaign across India over the past month.

Archis Mohan
Source: