Uttar Pradesh has become the first state of India to win the race for both the power centers — Race Course (Prime Minister’s House) now changed as Lok Kalyan Marg and Raisina Hills (President’s House). After hoisting the flag on Race Course in 2014 general elections by giving prime minister from the state, now it is proud moment for the state to have won supreme power center — Raisina Hills — as 14th President of India Ram Nath Kovind, 71, also comes from the state.
Kovind is also the first leader after independence who belongs to politically crucial Uttar Pradesh to become the president. He is also the first President who professed and propagated the ideology of Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) and represented BJP in Rajya Sabha twice as its MP. As a low key functionary of Sangh Parivar he discharged many sensitive organisational responsibilities in Uttar Pradesh and Uttrakhand.
Before going for top constitutional post of President of India he was Governor of Bihar where he maintained exemplary polite and cordial relations with the Chief Minister Nitish Kumar who had strained relations with BJP and Prime Minister Narendra Modi but he came out openly in his support cracking the opposition unity against saffron party. It could be simmering of new political equations in the caste ridden polity of Bihar before next parliamentary elections due in 2019.
Comes from humble background and poverty Kovind’s father Maiku Lal had a small grocery shop in his ancestral village Parunkh in Kanpur Dehat district of Uttar Pradesh. His mother died during his early childhood in a fire accident. He learnt his first lessons under a banyan tree. He did B.Com, LLB from Kanpur University. He is a happy man with his spouse Savita, married son Prashant Kumar and daughter Swati who works as an air hostess. His family belongs to the Dalit community of Koris, who have traditionally been weavers. They owned no land d and use to live in the small hut that use to leak during rains in his village. “How our siblings use to wait and pray for heavy rains to stop as it used to ransack our household,” recollected Kovind during his conversation with media soon after his was declared elected as President of the country.
Modi was quick to greet him by making his feelings public on twitter, sharing his long association with Kovind and his family posting around 20 years old photograph taken on the occasion of wedding in his family and a recent one at his own residence. He tweeted, “20 years ago and the present…always been a privilege to know you, President Elect.”
He also congratulated opposition nominee Meira Kumar on his Twitter handle, “I also congratulate @meira_kumar Ji for her campaign, which was in spirit of the democratic ethos & values we all are proud of.” BJP president Amit Shah twitted, “The election of Shri Ram Nath Kovind ji is a victory for the poor, downtrodden & marginalised and their aspirations.”
The top leadership of the BJP has been facing the heat of all around expression of anger and aggression from Dalit sections of Indian population over ill governance of some of the BJP ruled states that witnessed continued physical attacks targeting them largely by its fellow ideologically associated organisations. The strategy of BJP behind fielding a Dalit for the top post appears to regain the faith of Dalits in the party and the system.
Kovind joined BJP in 1991 and headed its Dalit Morcha from 1998-2002. Though BJP fielded him twice for state assembly from Ghatampur and Bhognipur constituencies of U.P but he could not win the election. He is among the few Dalit faces, the party could boast of in its folds in North India for the “Samajik Samrasta” social mingling formula devised by its parent organisation, RSS to take along most Dalits castes, to unite them as a part of Hindu society. He donated his ancestral home at Derapur to RSS. The party had nominated him to Rajya Sabha from the Hindi heartland twice in the past, where he enjoyed two consecutive terms from 1994 till March, 2006. During his Rajya Sabha tenure, he addressed the United Nations as a member of the Indian delegation in 2002.
As a Rajya Sabha MP in 1994, he used his funds to make high schools for girls, roads, electricity network, a branch of State Bank of India and ensured electricity meters were installed in all homes. He also 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.
Terming his victory to the highest constitutional post of the biggest democracy of the world, Kovind said, “It is an emotional moment. I never dreamed of this position nor was it a goal. My election to this post is a massage to all those who discharge their duties honestly with integrity.” “I want to tell the people that Ram Nath Kovind is going to Rashtrpati Bhawan as a representative of the poor,” he emotionally expressed with chocked voice. New President also promised that he shall uphold the Constitution of India and follow the policy of “Sarve Bhavantu Sukeenha,” prosperity to all.
His association with the RSS is also on account of his work with partner organisations which provide healthcare to the poor. One such group is the Divya Prem Sewa Mission in Haridwar, run by RSS pracharak Ashish Gautam to help lepers and their families. Kovind secured donations of Rs 25 lakh to the mission in 2000. Kovind has worked hard in spearheading the cause of education. He has emphasised on the development of basic infrastructure for education in rural areas by helping in construction of school buildings in Uttar Pradesh and Uttrakhand. He has also sponsored the education of at least two or three children of leprosy patients every year.
In the Parliament, he has served as a member of several important committees, including Parliamentary Committee on Welfare of Scheduled Castes/Tribes, Parliamentary Committee on Home Affairs, Parliamentary Committee on Petroleum and Natural Gas, among others.
Kovind had been actively associated with 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 was instrumental in getting those Government orders rendered null and void by the passage of the constitutional amendment, allowing reservation in promotions, during the first NDA regime led by Atal Bihari Vajpayee. Kovind has also served the party as its national spokesperson in 2010. BJP even tried to project him as an alternative to BSP president Mayawati in Uttar Pradesh. Then in 2015, he was appointed the Governor of Bihar.
Kovind has also served as a member of the Board of Management of Dr. BR Ambedkar University, Lucknow. He was also a member of the Board of Governors of Indian Institute of Management, Kolkata. He has also worked towards providing free legal aid to the weaker sections of the society.