Laying to rest all speculation, the Bharatiya Janata Party on Monday announced the name of incumbent Bihar governor Ram Nath Kovind as its candidate in the Presidential Election.
Kovind is likely to file his papers on 23 June, BJP president Amit Shah said after a nearly two-hour meeting of the BJP Parliamentary Board. He said political parties had been informed of the NDA's choice. "I hope all will agree with the name," he said at a press conference.
The 71-year-old low profile Dalit leader from Uttar Pradesh, is seen as an astute choice by the saffron party, which has been targeted by opposition parties over Dalit issues, and his election is almost a certainty as the ruling bloc with the support of some regional parties enjoys a majority in the electoral college.
Kovind has a long career in politics behind him. He has headed the BJP's Dalit Morcha and is among one of the few Dalit faces the party could boast of in it's folds in north India. The party has also nominated him as its Rajya Sabha MP from the Hindi heartland twice in the past, where he enjoyed consecutive terms from 1994 for the next 12 year till March, 2006.
Announcing his name as the party's choice for the presidential elections, Shah said, "Ram Nath comes from a Dalit family and has struggled a lot. We hope he will be the unanimous candidate for the election."
A lawyer by profession, Kovind is a commerce graduate from Kanpur University. He has been a Central government advocate in the Delhi High Court from 1977 to 1979 and a Central Government Standing Counsel in the Supreme Court from 1980 to 1993, according to News 18.
He is married to Savita Kovind and has a son and a daughter. Kovind, who emerged as the dark horse, is known for his clean image and Dalit outreach. He has extensively worked for providing free legal aid to the weaker sections of society, specially SC/ST women.
In his long standing political career, Kovind not only has the experience of sitting on a constitutional post as Bihar governor but he also has enough administrative experience as member of various parliamentary committees. He has been the chairman of the Rajya Sabha House Committee and has served as a member of the Parliamentary Committee on Welfare of Scheduled Castes/Tribes and Social Justice and Empowerment among others. Kovind joined a stir by SC/ST employees when in 1997 certain orders were issued by the Centre which adversely affected their interests. These orders were later declared null and void after the passage of three amendments in the Constitution during the rule of the first NDA government led by Atal Bihari Vajpayee.
His career as a lawyer too, spans over 16 years. As an advocate, Kovind took the lead in providing free legal aid to weaker sections, especially the SC/ST women, and poor and needy girls under the aegis of the Free Legal Aid Society in Delhi.
Kovind is also known for his work in the field of education. He has served as member on the board of management of the Dr BR Ambedkar University, Lucknow. He was also a member of the board of governors of the Indian Institute of Management, Kolkata.
He has also represented India in the United Nations and addressed the UN General Assembly in October, 2002. As a member of Parliament, Kovind visited Thailand, Nepal, Pakistan, Singapore, Germany, Switzerland, France, United Kingdom and the USA.
As an MP, Kovind emphasised on the development of basic infrastructure for education in rural areas and helped in construction of school buildings under the MPLAD scheme.
It was largely speculated that the saffron party could choose a Dalit face for the top constituitional post, as the name of Draupadi Murmu, another tribal leader from Odisha and current Jharkhand Governor also briefly did rounds. The strategy behind such a move was aimed at achieving multiple objectives.
As Firstpost predicted in this analytical piece, the saffron party wanted to "market its outreach to Dalits and tribals as genuine" eyeing the 2019 Lok Sabha elections. If elected, he will be the second President of India after KR Narayanan to be a member of the Dalit community.
Most political parties have so far refrained from directly opposing or espousing BJP's presidential pick. However, the BJP's choice of a Dalit face with a clean image will make it tougher for the Opposition to directly oppose Kovind's nomination.
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With inputs from IANS and PTI
Published Date: Jul 20, 2017 09:42 AM | Updated Date: Jul 20, 2017 18:21 PM