Ram Nath Kovind’s long journey to Raisina Hill
The heavy rain in Delhi on Thursday morning reminded Ram Nath Kovind of his own humble origins at Paraunkh village in Kanpur (rural). On the day he was elected President, Mr. Kovind remembered how he and his siblings would stick to the corners of their mud hut, as the thatched roof could not stop the rain from pouring into their home.
“My election as President of India is to represent all such Kovinds toiling away to make a living,” he said.
Ever since Mr. Kovind’s nomination had been announced by BJP president Amit Shah, many had expressed surprise about knowing so little about a man who has now become the 14th President. His speech, uncharacteristically emotional, was a nod to a low-profile political career and the journey to the highest office in the country.
“My election is to represent all Kovinds toiling away,” says President-elect
Cleared Civil Services
Mr. Kovind, 71, was born in a village in rural Kanpur, the son of a farmer who subsequently sold off a piece of land to fund his son’s education in Kanpur, where he enrolled for a law degree and prepare for the civil services examination picking up scholarships along the way. Mr. Kovind cleared the exam in his third attempt, but did not join the service that was not of his choice. He chose instead to practise as a lawyer, first at the Delhi High Court and later as standing counsel at the Supreme Court between 1980 and 1993.
He joined the BJP in 1991, and contested two Assembly polls in Uttar Pradesh, both of which he lost. He served two terms in the Rajya Sabha between 1994 and 2002, and served as the president of the Scheduled Caste Morcha of the party between 1998 and 2002, significantly during the period the NDA’s vice-presidential nominee, M. Venkaiah Naidu, was party president. He was appointed Governor of Bihar in 2015 and managed to strike a good working relationship with Chief Minister Nitish Kumar, who reciprocated it by supporting him in the presidential polls despite calls for Opposition’s unity.
For the BJP, which has worked hard to make Mr. Kovind its first person from the party to make it to the Rashtrapati Bhavan, the choice arose precisely from the things that he flagged in his speech – his humble origins, his quiet journey to the higher echelons of the party and left unstated, his representation of the Sangh Parivar’s version of Dalit politics, that of “samajik samrasta” or social harmony within the larger framework of Hindu society. This draws a contrast from Dalit politics of Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) chief Mayawati, coincidentally on a day when she quit the Rajya Sabha.
“I never dreamed of being President nor held it as a goal for my public life,” Mr. Kovind said, even as he now gets to make the journey from a thatched hut to moving into the Rashtrapati Bhavan.
Credit: The Hindu
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