Presidential election 2017: Ram Nath Kovind — low-profile, but tipped for the highest office

Warming up: Bihar Governor and NDA presidential candidate Ram Nath Kovind outside Raj Bhavan in Patna, before leaving for New Delhi, on Monday.   | Photo Credit: Ranjeet Kumar

In 2008, BJP spokesperson Bizay Sonkar Shastri was struggling to publish his magazine Dalit Andolan Patrika. The National Democratic Alliance’s nominee for the post of President of India in 2017, Ram Nath Kovind, met him, quietly placing a piece of paper in his jacket pocket.

“It was a cheque for ₹11,000, and Ram Nathji said that it was his contribution to the commercially difficult venture of publishing a magazine on Dalit issues. I don’t know who told him about my problem, but he made me promise not to tell anyone of his contribution,” said Mr. Shastri. “I’m saying this now because this reveals his essential character. He is quiet and unassuming, but he is committed to his causes,” he noted.

Mr. Shastri’s reasons for revealing this confidential act of generosity is timely, as the low-profile Mr. Kovind’s name evoked puzzlement as the NDA candidate for President.


Community rights

Mr. Kovind, set to be India’s second Dalit President, was born in a village in Kanpur in 1945, in the Koli (weaver community). His advocacy of the rights of this community, as the chief of the All India Koli Samaj is well known.

A lawyer by training (he was made advocate on record at the Supreme Court in 1978), Mr. Kovind, 71, was a two-time member of the Rajya Sabha, held various positions in the BJP both in Uttar Pradesh (as State unit general secretary) and nationally as the party’s Scheduled Caste Morcha chief.

His stint in the Rajya Sabha was marked by questions on the welfare of the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes, including the formalisation of sanitation workers in nationalised banks and according Cabinet rank to the chairman of the SC/ST Commission.

He served diligently on various committees in Parliament, and on the board of the Indian Institute of Management (Kolkata) and the B.R. Ambedkar University in Lucknow. When other BJP-appointed Governors seemed to be clashing with the Opposition-led State governments, Mr. Kovind managed to get along with Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar just fine.


The only media flutter Mr. Kovind created was during the swearing-in ceremony of the JD(U)-RJD-Congress alliance government in 2015, when he corrected Tej Pratap Yadav’s pronunciation of the word “Upekshit” (ignored) as “Apekshit” (expected).

Bihar’s Education Minister, Congress leader Ashok Choudhary, whose portfolio enjoins frequent meetings with the Governor, terms him a “good person”.

After a life in public service lived below the radar, Mr. Kovind now finds himself with a chance of being the first member of the BJP to be President

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Printable version | Nov 25, 2021 8:28:49 AM |

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