BJP picks Dalit leader Ram Nath Kovind as presidential choice

BJP picks Dalit leader Ram Nath Kovind as presidential choice

Senior BJP leader Kailash Vijayvargiya on Monday brushed off the opposition's contention that Bihar Governor Ram Nath Kovind was picked as the party's Presidential candidate because of his links to the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) the ideological mentor of the BJP.

To ensure agreement over his candidature, Prime Minister Narendra Modi talked on the phone with Congress president Sonia Gandhi and previous prime minister Manmohan Singh to impart BJP's decision to them.

But Bihar Governor Ram Nath Kovind, 71, has attributes that not many in the NDA family can boast of.

The president is voted in by an electoral college comprised of federal and state lawmakers, and the ruling BJP is thought to have the support it needs to push its candidate through.

Kovind has served as the national spokesperson of the party. Union Parliamentary Affairs Minister H.N. Anantha Kumar, Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi and BJP chief whip Rakesh Singh arrange for the other signatures on these papers. "They informed us after announcing this decision so there is no scope for consensus now..." Kovind headed Dalit Morcha from 1998 to 2002 and also led the All-India Koli Samaj. India's ruling party today named a lawyer from the lowest Dalit caste as its candidate for president, a move seen as an attempt to reach out to the marginalised community.

Though the main opposition parties did not criticise Kovind, who emerged as a dark horse, they kept their cards close to the chest on whether they would back him.

Janata Dal (United) chief and Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar expressed happiness that the Bihar Governor would be the NDA's candidate for the President elections.

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"Ramnathji has always spoken for the deprived sections, and has had a long career in speaking out for Dalits and oppressed sections", said Mr. Shah, while making the announcement.

Not to lag behind, Jagan, too, issued a statement within a short time, stating that he had received a call from Amit Shah and that the YSRC would extend support to the Dalit candidate selected by the BJP for the post of President.

India's Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi (pic) tweeted that Ram Nath Kovind would "make an exceptional president".

By all indication, the country is set to get its second Dalit President after KR Narayanan, who was elected President in 1997 when entire Opposition, save the Shiv Sena, backed him. So, she has just gone the other way by saying that a Dalit is welcomed, but not a Dalit from a particular political ideology which of course is now being hinted at the RSS. This is likely to isolate the Congress and the Left further as they have not been able to build consensus among other parties on a suitable candidate. "We will discuss later and decide".

However, there are signs that all the opposition parties might not share the same views when it comes to Kovind's nomination.

During his terms as a member of Parliament, Kovind helped in construction of school buildings in Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand under the Members of Parliament Local Area Development Scheme (MPLADS).

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