Ram Nath Kovind took oath as the 14th President of India at a grand ceremony in New Delhi today. Unbelievable it seems, but such things happen probably only in India — the most vibrant and biggest democracy in the world. Barely a month ago, little was known about this man, who likes to maintain a low-profile, despite having served as the governor of a politically on the boil state of Bihar and being one of the senior leaders of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). There couldn’t be a better example to prove his genuineness than the fact that he could even win the trust of the opposition leaders like Nitish Kumar and Naveen Patnaik, that too at a time when opposition for the sake of opposition appeared to have become a fashion.
Some political observers have dubbed Kovind’s election as victory of the political “masterstroke” played by Modi-Shah combine of the BJP. Bu Presidential election is a political election and all parties have the right to take decisions they deem fit to serve their interests. Leave the politics aside for some time and think. In which country, a son of a poor Dalit farmer, grown up living in a mud house in a village, can dream of becoming the President? It is possible probably only in India where not one but many Kovinds have risen to the top from nowhere — be it former President APJ Kalam or present PM Narendra Modi.
Rain is considered as a good omen in Indian culture. But the same rain creates havoc in the lives of many poor across the country. So when it rained heavily in Delhi on the day of Kovind’s win, the President-elect couldn’t hold back the memory of his native village Paraunkh in Kanpur Dehat.
Honoured to be sworn in as the 14th President of India; would be carrying out my responsibilities with all humility #PresidentKovind
— President of India (@rashtrapatibhvn) July 25, 2017
Addressing media after the result, Kovind recalled how he and his siblings used to stick to the corners of their mud house as its thatched roof couldn’t stop the rainwater from pouring into their home. President Kovind also recalled his humble upbringing in a mud house in his speech after taking oath of office on July 25, 2017.
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Born on October 1, 1945 at Kanpur Dehat in Uttar Pradesh, Kovind (now 71) is the son of a farmer, who had to sell a piece of his farmland to fund Kovind’s education. Kovind was enrolled for a law degree at Kanpur University but prepared for the civil services exam. Kovind cleared the exam in the third attempt but left to pursue law as he didn’t get the desired rank. He was married to Savita Kovind on 30th May, 1974 and has a son, Prashant Kumar, who is married, and a daughter Swati.
Kovind served as the central Government Advocate in Delhi High Court from 1977 to 1979 and Central Government Standing Counsel in Supreme Court from 1980 to 1993. He became Advocate-on-Record of the Supreme Court of India in 1978. He had practised in Delhi High Court and Supreme Court for about 16 years until 1993.
Met President Elect Shri Ram Nath Kovind Ji and congratulated him. pic.twitter.com/IwFwMdezUY
— Narendra Modi (@narendramodi) July 20, 2017
Political career and illustrious works
Kovind was elected to Rajya Sabha in April 1994 from Uttar Pradesh and served for two consecutive terms for 12 years until March 2006. He has been known as a crusader for the Rights and Cause of Weaker Sections of the Society especially Scheduled Castes/Scheduled Tribes/OBC/Minority/Land Women from his student days.
Kovind had joined the movement of SC/ST employees against the Central Government when in 1997 some orders were issued by the Centre which adversely affected the interests of employees of the Scheduled Castes/Tribes. He later succeeded in getting those Government orders declared null and void by the passage of three Amendments in the Constitution of India during the first NDA regime led by Atal Bihari Vajpayee.
BJP’s brainstorming for perfect Presidential Candidate
The saffron party had to name a candidate who would be widely accepted across the country and at the same time serve its political goals. Several names from Lal Krishna Advani to E Sreedharan to Draupadi Murmu to Sumitra Mahajan did the rounds but the secret brainstorming in the BJP went for long.
On June 22, BJP chief Amit Shah surprised the country by announcing the name of Kovind. He didn’t have the charisma of an Advani or the popularity of an E Sreedharan. A Dalit from a humble background, Kovind’s nomination, however, was a pleasant surprise for the people and an uninvited shock for the opposition, which had been accusing the Centre of being negligent towards Dalits.
Opposition goes in huddle
Prior to Kovind’s nomination, the opposition played the delay game by waiting for the BJP-led NDA to announce its candidate. BJP had apparently tried to build a consensus on its candidate but the opposition claimed the saffron party had not come up with a name. After the announcement of Kovind’s nomination, it was too late for the opposition, which eventually settled for another Dalit leader and former Lok Sabha speaker Meira Kumar. Nobel Laureate Amartya Sen called it a tactical mistake by the opposition.
In an article in the Indian Express, Sen wrote: “Had she (Meira Kumar) been put forward earlier as the well thought-out strategic choice of someone coming from a Dalit background, and having important political experience and vision, she could have attracted much more support than she would now be able to get as a belated tactical choice, after the BJP had already locked up quick support for their own Dalit candidate.”
Following the nomination, Kovind first resigned from the Bihar Governor post and moved to Delhi. For 2-3 weeks he toured across many states to get support from the parties, even as his election was almost certain.
Congratulations Ram Nath Kovindji. Wishing you a great term as President of India.
— Office of RG (@OfficeOfRG) July 20, 2017
Polling and cross voting
July 17, 2017 was the day of polling. Prime Minister Narendra Modi was one of the first voters who cast his vote. There were some reports of cross voting from states like Arunachal Pradesh, Maharashtra, Gujarat, Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal in favour of Kovind.
The election result was on the expected lines. Kovind defeated joint opposition candidate Meira Kumar after getting 65.65 percent of the votes in the electoral college. Kovind received 2930 votes with a value of 7,02,044, according to the Election Commission, while Kumar got 1844 votes with a value of 3,67,314.
The President-elect got most votes in Uttar Pradesh (65). EC data revealed that Kovind’s vote share was the lowest since 1974. Kovind’s predecessor Pranab Mukherjee had got 69.31 per cent votes in 2012 while Pratibha Patil got 65.82 in 2007. According to EC, around 8 Congress MLAs voted for Kovind in Gujarat.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi tweeted, “Congratulations to Shri Ram Nath Kovind Ji on being elected the President of India! Best wishes for a fruitful & inspiring tenure. Gladdened by the extensive support for Shri Ram Nath Kovind Ji among MPs & across various states. I thank members of the electoral college.”
It is our great privilege that 1st time BJP had an opportunity to nominate a President on its own, a member of Dalit community was chosen. pic.twitter.com/QV83OP8Pcg
— Amit Shah (@AmitShah) July 20, 2017
The PM also congratulated Meira Kumar, “I also congratulate @meira_kumar Ji for her campaign, which was in spirit of the democratic ethos & values we all are proud of.”
In a series of tweets, BJP chief Amit Shah said, “Congratulations to Shri Ram Nath Kovind ji for the emphatic victory in the 2017 presidential elections. His victory is truly historic. It is a victory for the poor, downtrodden and marginalised and their aspirations.”
President Ram Nath Kovind took oath of office from Chief Justice of India JS Kehar in the Central Hall of Parliament.