Presidential poll: NDA-pick Kovind rose through the ranks

Ram Nath Kovind

Ram Nath Kovind

The ‘soft-spoken’ 71-year-old Bihar Governor, Ram Nath Kovind, who on Monday was selected as the ruling BJP-led National Democratic Alliance’s candidate for the post of President of India, comes from a humble Dalit farmer’s family in Uttar Pradesh.

Born on 1 October 1945, at Derapur district, Uttar Pradesh, Ram Nath Kovind was elected twice to the Rajya Sabha in 1994-2000 and 2000-2006. For the larger part of his political career he was in Bihar and Uttar Pradesh and went on to become the president of BJP Dalit Morcha from 1998-2002. He was also a BJP spokesman and practiced as a lawyer in the Supreme Court.

From 1977 to 1979, he was a Central government Advocate in the Delhi High Court and from 1980-1993, a Central government Standing Counsel in the Supreme Court. In 1978, he became Advocate-on-Record of the Supreme Court.

Kovind's Dalit background and the fact that he served as president of All India Koli Samaj from 1998 to 2002 might have come in handy for the BJP parliamentary board leaders to finally select him as the NDA’s nominee for the post of President. It also fits in well with Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s ‘Dalit’ outreach plan of action.

ovind’s amenable and caring nature has endeared him not only to his own party members but also to political opponents. Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar, who had initially taken exception to his selection as Bihar Governor in August 2015, later developed a good relationship with him. Kovind held regular interactions with the cross-section of political parties in Bihar during the last three years in office.

Kovind served as member in the parliamentary committees on Home Affairs, Petroleum and Natural Gas, Social Justice and Empowerment, Welfare of Scheduled Castes/Tribes, Law and Justice during his stint in the Upper House besides being chairman of the Rajya Sabha House Committee.

Bihar CM Nitish Kumar on Monday expressed his happiness over Kovind’s selection as a NDA nominee but said a final call on the matter will be taken by the Opposition parties. Kovind also reportedly enjoys a good rapport with RJD leader Lalu Prasad.

Ram Nath Kovind served as private secretary to former Prime Minister Morarji Desai even before he joined the BJP in 1977.

After his selection he thanked everyone for giving him an opportunity to serve ‘Bharat Mata’.

Political pundits say Opposition parties have no choice but to accept Kovind or put up another Dalit candidate against him. But given the ruling BJP-led NDA’s numerical superiority Kovind’s appointment as the next President of India is almost a surety.