LUCKNOW: Ram Nath Kovind has the reputation of being a crusader for the rights of weaker sections, especially Dalits and women, and it is told in support of that narrative that he donated his ancestral house to the Dalits of his village to serve as a venue for marriages.
He hails from the Scheduled Caste Koli community and headed the BJP Dalit Morcha from 1998 to 2002. But he never made it to elected legislatures, failing as a BJP candidate for the Ghatampur seat in Kanpur Dehat district in the 1991 Lok Sabha election and much later, in the 2007 Assembly election in UP, as the candidate for the Bhognipur seat. So Kovind’s two stints as a lawmaker have been in the Rajya Sabha. He served two consecutive terms in the Upper House, spanning 1994-2006.
Born into a humble family on October 1, 1945 in Paraunkh village in Kanpur Dehat district, Kovind did his schooling at Khanpur primary and secondary school in rural Kanpur Dehat before moving to Kanpur town for his Intermediate from the famous BSND College.
He went on to graduate in commerce and law from DAV College in that industrial town and moved to the national capital to prepare for the Civil Services. He cleared the exam in his third attempt but was offered Allied Services, which he did not accept. So he returned to law and turned to practice, registering with the Delhi Bar Council in 1971.
He proved to be a successful lawyer, and he practised for 16 years in the Delhi High Court and Supreme Court till 1993. He argued for the central government in the Delhi High Court from 1977 to 1979 and rose to be the central government’s standing counsel in the Supreme Court from 1980 to 1993.
His brush with politics came just after the Emergency. The Janata Party assumed power at the Centre in 1977 and Kovind was picked by Morarji Desai to be his personal secretary. It was then that he came in touch with the Jana Sangh’s leaders.
It was in the saffron party that Kovind came into he own, serving as the BJP’s national spokesman and serving those two terms in the Rajya Sabha. He was named to several important parliamentary committees: Parliamentary Committee on Welfare of Scheduled Castes/Tribes, Home Affairs, Petroleum and Natural Gas, Social Justice and Empowerment, Parliamentary Committee on Law and Justice.
A proficient speaker in Hindi and English, Kovind has been a member on the boards of academic institutions as well, such as the Board of Management of the Baba Saheb Bhim Rao Ambedkar University in Lucknow and the Indian Institute of Management-Kolkata. He has represented India in the United Nations and has the credit of addressing the UN General Assembly.
Kovind's links to the BJP’s Hindutva politics said to be tenuous. Sources say he has been drawn more to the politics of social empowerment of Dalits and weaker sections than the plank of religion.
Reputed to be an affable man, he has had a quiet innings as the governor of Bihar, a post that he took up in August 2015, months before Assembly elections were held in the state.
Ram Nath Kovind married Savita on May 30, 1974 and has a son Prashant and a daughter Swati.