Man from low­est caste on course for In­dian pres­i­dency

The Daily Telegraph - - World News - By Emma Gat­ten

IN­DIA is ex­pected to elect a new pres­i­dent from its Dalit com­mu­nity, the sec­ond time it will have a head of state from the coun­try’s low­est and poor­est caste.

Nearly 5,000 In­dian MPS and pro­vin­cial leg­is­la­tors from across the coun­try voted yes­ter­day to elect the new pres­i­dent for a five-year term.

The two-way con­test is likely to be won by Ram Nath Kovind, a 71-year-old low caste Dalit lawyer and for­mer state gov­er­nor, who is backed by Prime Min­is­ter Naren­dra Modi’s rul­ing Hindu na­tion­al­ist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).

His elec­tion is be­ing seen as a way for Mr Modi to gain po­lit­i­cal cap­i­tal among the Dalit com­mu­nity, who num­ber around 200 mil­lion in the na­tion of 1.3 bil­lion, and are rel­e­gated to the mar­gins of so­ci­ety.

Mr Kovind is be­ing chal­lenged by Meira Ku­mar, a for­mer diplo­mat and In­dia’s first woman speaker un­til 2014, who is also a mem­ber of the caste once known as “un­touch­ables”.

But she lacks sup­port in the 4,896-strong elec­toral col­lege in the elec­tion, the out­come of which will be an­nounced on Thurs­day.

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