In one stroke, Opposition’s unity was thrown into disarray as BJP announced the name of Dalit leader and Bihar governor Ram Nath Kovind as NDA’s Presidential candidate.
Kovind, a low profile and highly respected leader within the BJP, hails from Kanpur in UP and is known to be a hardcore organization man. "Ram Nath ji has always spoken for the deprived sections of society, and has had a long career in speaking out for Dalits and oppressed sections of society,” said BJP president Amit Shah, announcing his candidature.
Shri Ram Nath Kovind, a farmer's son, comes from a humble background. He devoted his life to public service & worked for poor & marginalised— Narendra Modi (@narendramodi) June 19, 2017
Though there are other Dalit faces in the party, Kovind, 71, is highly regarded and has held several responsibilities within the party including the national spokesperson and President of BJP’s SC/ST Morcha from 1998 to 2002. A former Supreme Court lawyer, he has also been two term Rajya Sabha MP.
With his illustrious background in the legal arena, Shri Kovind's knowledge and understanding of the Constitution will benefit the nation.— Narendra Modi (@narendramodi) June 19, 2017
Sources in the party say that it was his unassuming nature and loyalty to the party that won him the nomination for President’s post. His appointment as Bihar governor in August 2015, in the run up to the Bihar assembly elections, was met with equal surprise at that time. Not many outside the party knew much about him. In fact, even as national spokesperson of the party, he desisted from making TV appearances.
Known for his Spartan lifestyle, Kovind is believed to have lived in a rented apartment in Delhi's Kalibari area before becoming an MP in 1994.
I am sure Shri Ram Nath Kovind will make an exceptional President & continue to be a strong voice for the poor, downtrodden & marginalised.— Narendra Modi (@narendramodi) June 19, 2017
The decision left the Opposition nonplussed as they would find it difficult to oppose his candidature owing to his Dalit credentials. A senior Congress leader told Outlook that it may be difficult to oppose a Dalit leader’s name “unless we can come up with another strong Dalit candidate.” Shah said that the party was hopeful of a consensus on Kovind’s name.
“Prime Minister Narendra Modi has spoken to Sonia Gandhi, Manmohan Singh, and other political leaders on the issue. The date for nomination will be set in consultation with Kovindji, but most likely it will be on June 23rd. We have simply informed the other leaders. I am hoping for consensus,” Shah said. The party is yet to take a decision on Vice President nominee.