Scotching long-time speculation that RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat would be its presidential nominee, the NDA government at the Centre has named Dalit politician Ram Nath Kovind as its candidate.
BJP national president Amit Shah disclose Kovind’s candidature on Monday. Kovind, presently the governor of Bihar, will file his papers on June 23.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi has spoken to Congress chief Sonia Gandhi and former prime minister Manmohan Singh to seek their support for Ram Nath Kovind.
Born on October 1, 1945 in Derapur village of Kanpur Dehat, Kovind is a commerce graduate and has an LLB degree. The two-time Rajya Sabha member and BJP's former national spokesperson, Kovind hails from Ghatampur tehsil of Kanpur Dehat. He headed the BJP's Scheduled Caste Morcha between 1999 and 2002.
Hailing from the Koli community, which is classified as a Scheduled Caste in Uttar Pradesh, Kovind was an advocate by profession before entering politics full-time.
He was registered as an advocate in 1971 and practised In the Delhi High Court from 1977 to 1979. He was a standing counsel in the Supreme Court from 1980 to 1993. H was elected to the Rajya Sabha for the first time in 1994 and completed his first tenure in 2000. He repeated his term in upper house between 2000 and 2006. He was appointed Bihar governor on August 8, 2015.
Kovind’s candidature implies that the BJP has set aside a much-speculated move to nominate a hard right candidate for the country’s top post, a move predicted by left-wing critics as a preparatory tactics towards moving the country closer to a Hindutva identity.
Kovind’s choice is in keeping with ruling parties’ propensity to name candidates from the minorities, or underprivileged sections to signal the inclusiveness of India’s polity. The last time the NDA was in power, it nominated A P J Abdul Kalam for president. Bhagwat’s candidature would have been a departure from that precedent.
The preference for Kovind also sits squarely with the BJP’s recent strategy of knitting Dalit communities into its emerging all-India coalition, as seen most recently in Uttar Pradesh, where it chose a Dalit, K P Maurya, as one of the two deputy chief minister to balance the Thakur, Yogi Adityanath’s choice as chief minister.
Kovind’s candidature also removes any scope for the Congress and the secular parties to nitpick the choice.