Bi­har gov­er­nor Kovind BJP pick for pres­i­dent

Hindustan Times ST (Jaipur) - - Front Page - Ku­mar Ut­tam letters@hindustantimes.com

CASTE CARD? Can­di­da­ture likely to help party warm up to Dalit com­mu­ni­ties

The rul­ing Bharatiya Janata Party pro­posed Bi­har gov­er­nor and Dalit leader Ram Nath Kovind’s name for In­dia’s next pres­i­dent on Mon­day, a move be­ing seen as part of the party’s out­reach to­wards the coun­try’s back­ward castes.

At a press con­fer­ence in Delhi af­ter a meet­ing of the BJP’s par­lia­men­tary board, party chief Amit Shah an­nounced the 71-year-old for­mer lawyer and two-time Ra­jya Sabha MP’s name.

He said Prime Min­is­ter Naren­dra Modi had spo­ken to So­nia Gandhi – pres­i­dent of the prin­ci­pal op­po­si­tion Congress party – and for­mer PM Man­mo­han Singh about the de­ci­sion.

“So­nia ji has said that they will hold a dis­cus­sion be­fore a de­ci­sion,” Shah told re­porters.

Kovind’s can­di­da­ture is likely to help the BJP warm up to In­dia’s Dalit com­mu­ni­ties that

His fam­ily mi­grated to Delhi, where he trained and prac­tised as a lawyer

He started his po­lit­i­cal jour­ney as per­sonal sec­re­tary to Prime Min­is­ter Mo­rarji De­sai in 1977

BJP fielded him as party’s Lok Sabha can­di­date from Ghatam­pur in 1990. He lost and never con­tested again

He was nom­i­nated twice to Ra­jya Sabha, in 1994 and again in 2006, and was na­tional pres­i­dent of BJP’s SC/ST wing in 1999.

He is mar­ried to Savita Kovind and has a son and a daugh­ter

make up more than 15% of the pop­u­la­tion and are elec­torally sig­nif­i­cant in many big states.

Prime Min­is­ter Modi said he was sure that Kovind will “will make an ex­cep­tional Pres­i­dent”, high­light­ing the Bi­har gov­er­nor’s hum­ble back­ground.

The de­ci­sion is likely to put

many op­po­si­tion lead­ers such as Bi­har chief min­is­ter Ni­tish Ku­mar, Rashtriya Janata Dal’s Lalu Prasad, Bahu­jan Sa­maj Party’s Mayawati and Sa­ma­jwadi Party in a tight spot, be­cause it might be dif­fi­cult for them to op­pose a Dalit leader due to po­lit­i­cal equa­tions.

Kovind took over as the Bi­har gov­er­nor two years ago. He stud­ied law from Kan­pur Uni­ver­sity and was cen­tral govern­ment’s stand­ing coun­cil in the Supreme Court be­tween 1980 and 1993. The old Dalit leader from Kan­pur also served the na­tional spokesman of the BJP.

He was elected and be­came a mem­ber of the Up­per House in April 1994 from Ut­tar Pradesh and served for two con­sec­u­tive terms till March, 2006.

Kovind also headed the BJP’s Sched­uled Caste Mor­cha be­tween 1999 and 2002, the pe­riod dur­ing which Modi was BJP’s gen­eral sec­re­tary (or­gan­i­sa­tion). He comes from the Koli com­mu­nity, which is clas­si­fied as sched­uled caste in Ut­tar Pradesh.

The de­ci­sion comes amid pro­tracted ne­go­ti­a­tions in the Op­po­si­tion camp to zero in on a con­sen­sus can­di­date – seen as an op­por­tu­nity to rally par­ties for a grand anti-BJP coali­tion be­fore the 2019 gen­eral elec­tions.

RE­LATED RE­PORT ON P4

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