BJP-led NDA’s presidential candidate Ram Nath Kovind registered an emphatic win.National Democratic Alliance’s candidate Kovind secured over 65% of votes over rival Meira Kumar, who was backed by the Congress and other opposition parties. Succeeding Pranab Mukherjee, Kovind will be sworn in as the 14th President of India on July 25.
Flowers and extra security had arrived at the former Bihar governor’s home in Delhi long before the official announcement and sweets were passed around at his hometown in Uttar Pradesh.
Kovind will be the seventh youngest person to be anointed to the coveted post. He is also the second Dalit after KR Narayanan to adorn the coveted post. He is the first President from Uttar Pradesh.
The contest, between the ruling NDA’s Ram Nath Kovind and the Opposition’s Meira Kumar, both Dalits, saw nearly 99 per cent lawmakers and legislators cast their vote ,the highest ever.
In the final vote count, NDA nominee Kovind received 65.6 per cent votes translating into 702,044 electoral college votes, while UPA candidate Meira Kumar managed to get 34.35 per cent (367,314 votes).
According to reports, there was cross voting in UP, Gujarat and Goa during the elections, which resulted into Kovind’s massive 2/3rd votes. 522 MPs voted for Kovind, while 225 parliamentarians voted for Meira Kuma
Mr Kovind, 71, backed not just by the ruling BJP-led National Democratic Alliance but also several regional parties like Tamil Nadu’s AIADMK, likely to get nearly 70 per cent of the total votes
Kovind is the second Dalit leader after K.R. Narayanan and the first politician linked to the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) to become the Head of State and the Commander-in-Chief of the Indian Armed Forces. He is also the first leader from Uttar Pradesh to occupy the highest constitutional position in the country.
Kovind, a lawyer by profession and the father of two children, hails from Kanpur. He joined the BJP in 1991 after working for over 20 years as a government advocate in the Delhi High Court and Supreme Court.
There were few who had heard of Kovind until he was nominated as the BJP’s presidential candidate on 19 June.
While he is admired for his work ethic, mild manners and decency, few find him to be either brilliant or charismatic. But Kovind had clearly caught the attention of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who singled him out during the campaign for the 2015 Bihar Assembly election. “Shriman Ram Nath Kovindji has given his all to the welfare of the oppressed, the dispossessed, the Dalit, the backward and the extremely backward, all his life,” Modi said at the time.
The PM’s decision to pick a Dalit candidate has gone down as a masterstroke. Not only did it silence the party veterans, it also silenced rivals who did not want to be seen opposing a Dalit candidate.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi congratulated Ram Nath Kovind. He said, “Congratulations to Shri Ram Nath Kovind Ji on being elected the President of India! Best wishes for a fruitful & inspiring tenure. Gladdened by the extensive support for Shri Ram Nath Kovind Ji among MPs & across various states. I thank members of the electoral college. I also congratulate Meira Kumar Ji for her campaign, which was in spirit of the democratic ethos & values we all are proud of.”
Kovind was born into a Dalit family in the village of Paraunkh in Kanpur on October 1, 1945. His family belongs to the community of Koris, who have traditionally been weavers. They owned no land. His father, Maikulal Kori raised nine children on the money he earned running a small grocery store.
Hailing from Uttar Pradesh, Kovind was the youngest among three brothers. He completed his primary and pre-middle school education from Khanpur in Sandalpur block. He passed intermediate examination from Kanpur and bachelors in Commerce from DAV College. He became a law graduate from DAV Law College, Kanpur.
He cracked the Indian Administrative Services exam in his third attempt, getting selected for the allied service. He chose to practice law instead.
Kovind is a symbol mounted on the BJP’s concrete pro-Dalit politics and governance. A symbol that speaks of the advances the party has already made towards caste politics and the way that lies ahead.
Just 10 years ago, no one could imagine a BJP-led government with a Dalit as President and an OBC as Prime Minister. Ten years later, the BJP might spring surprises we can’t imagine today.