Who is Ram Nath Kovind, PM Modi’s surprise pick for the next president of India

The NDA announced Kovind as its pick for president, a choice that is likely to help the BJP warm up to India’s Dalit communities that make up more than 15% of the population.

india Updated: Jun 27, 2017 12:37 IST
Arun Kumar
Arun Kumar
Hindustan Times, Patna
Ram Nath Kovind,Presidential election,Presidential candidate
Bihar governor Ram Nath Kovind, NDA's presidential candidate, waves at the media as he leaves for Delhi, at Raj Bhavan in Patna on Monday.(PTI Photo)

The Prime Minister’s surprise nominee for President, Bihar governor Ram Nath Kovind, spent most of his political career away from the spotlight but shed his soft-spoken manners when he had to fight for the right of Dalits and weaker communities.

An advocate with a decade-and-half of experience in the high courts and the Supreme Court, Kovind first gained popularity in 1997 when he joined the movement of SC/ST employees against certain orders of the central government and got them annulled.

In his first public meeting after taking over as governor, Kovind exhorted the Dalits and weaker sections to understand the power of two important constitutional rights – right to education and right to vote – which could change their fortune. “The constitution has given two rights. The Dalits suffer across the nation because they could not appreciate the importance of the two,” he added.

When Kovind took over as the 36th governor of Bihar in 2015, he was seen as a BJP man whose appointment wasn’t welcomed by the Nitish Kumar government that had just stormed to power. But over the two years, the 71-year-old has got along well with the chief minister despite being seen as a BJP man.

He used his own legal acumen while giving assent to the new prohibition law brought by the Nitish government despite opposition from within the BJP and some lawyers.

On the other hand, he firmly returned the lokayukta amendment bill to Bihar assembly for reconsideration. His plea was that there should be a definite time frame for the selection of lokayukta and its members should be completed. It was later complied with and Bihar now has a lokayukta.

Known for staying away from controversies but remaining firm on important issues, Kovind has been engaged in improving Bihar’s beleaguered higher education system by holding regular meetings with vice chancellors. Earlier, he also served as member of board of management of Dr BR Ambedkar University, Lucknow. The vexed issue of appointment of VCs in Bihar – a dispute that even reached the SC in the past – also went off smoothly during his tenure.

Born on October 1, 1945 at Kanpur Dehat in Uttar Pradesh, he graduated from Kanpur University and also acquired his law degree from there. He held various important positions, such as central government advocate in the Delhi high court and standing counsel in the Supreme Court. He practiced in the SC and HC for 16 years. He also represented India at the United Nations and addressed the general assembly in October 2002.

First Published: Jun 19, 2017 17:17 IST