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Ram Nath Kovind wins election to become India’s next President

Kovind is the second Dalit president after KR Narayanan and the first from Uttar Pradesh.

india Updated: Jul 21, 2017 00:24 IST
Saubhadra Chatterji
Saubhadra Chatterji
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
‪‪President of India‬,‪Ram Nath Kovind‬,‪India‬‬
Ram Nath Kovind is congratulated by BJP President Amit Shah and Union ministers Ananth Kumar, Ramvilas Paswan, and Ravishankar Prasad on being elected as the 14th President of India, in New Delhi on Thursday. (PTI)

Ram Nath Kovind, former Bihar governor and an old BJP hand, will be India’s 14th President after sweeping the election with nearly two-third of the votes on Thursday.

The NDA candidate, supported by 40 parties, secured 702044 or 65.65% votes in the poll touted as an ideological battle by the Opposition parties. His rival, former Lok Sabha Speaker Meira Kumar, ended up with 367314 or 34.35% of the votes of elected MPs and MLAs.

Kovind got more votes than Kumar in 21 states including her home state Bihar and in both Houses of Parliament.

Minutes after the result was declared, an emotional Kovind recalled his abject poverty-ridden childhood in Uttar Pradesh’s Paraunkh village. “Today, it rained in Delhi, reminding me of the monsoon of my childhood. We had a kuccha house and its roof couldn’t stop water pouring into the room. We, the siblings, stood against the wall and waited for the rains to end.”

He thanked the nation for “enormous love on NDA” after his much-anticipated victory. He announced that he will represent “all struggling to make a living” as the President of India.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi with BJP President Amit Shah congratulates Ram Nath Kovind on being elected as the 14th President of India, in New Delhi on Thursday. (PTI)

Kovind, 71, the second Dalit president after KR Narayanan is also the first from India’s most populous and politically significant state Uttar Pradesh to come in the country’s highest office. In the run up to the election, Kovind managed to win over parties like Nitish Kumar’s JD(U), Naveen Patnaik’s BJD and AIADMK, making the 15th Presidential election almost a one-sided contest. It was also a stellar moment for the BJP as it finally could elect its own leader ever since its inception in 1980.

Before his name was announced by BJP chief Amit Shah a month ago Kovind never figured in speculations on possible NDA candidates. On Thursday, the unassuming BJP leader, who had twice been Rajya Sabha member, won the prestigious battle amid rampant cross voting favouring the ruling dispensation.

Kovind’s candidature was also seen as a part of the BJP’s efforts to widen its support base ahead of the 2019 general election.

Kovind will enter Rashtrapati Bhavan on July 25 and on the same day incumbent Pranab Mukherjee leaves for his new address in Rajaji Marg, in the same bungalow where APJ Abdul Kalam lived after retirement.

Family members and villagers celebrating the victory of Kovind by dancing. (Manoj Yadav/HT Photo)

While the Congress-led Opposition suffered a defeat, Meira Kumar managed to secure the highest share of votes as runner-up in last 48 years of the Presidential election. Only Kota Subbarao in 1962 and Neelam Sanjeeva Reddy in 1969 got higher vote share than Kumar. “I want to make it very clear that today on July 20 July, my battle for ideology doesn’t end, it will continue,” Kumar announced, while congratulating Kovind for his victory.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi tweeted an old photo of Kovind and him to showcase their long connection and expressed happiness for “the extensive support for Shri Ram Nath Kovind ji among MPs & across various states.” Modi tweeted: “Congratulations to Shri Ram Nath Kovind Ji on being elected the President of India! Best wishes for a fruitful & inspiring tenure.”

He also congratulated Meira Kumar for her campaign which he described “was in spirit of the democratic ethos & values we all are proud of.”

Congress president Sonia Gandhi and vice president Rahul congratulated him. “The President of India enjoys a unique position as defender and protector of the Constitution, upholder of democratic traditions and as supreme commander of the Indian Armed Forces”, she said.

Opposition’s Vice-Presidential nominee Gopalkrishna Gandhi sent his good wishes for Kovind’s “outstanding tenure” in Rashtrapati Bhavan. “May he exercise, the classical right to be consulted, the right to encourage, the right to warn,” Gandhi told HT.

First Published: Jul 20, 2017 23:26 IST