Ram Nath Kovind is India’s New President
A majority of India’s lawmakers elected Ram Nath Kovind, a member of India’s lowest Dalit caste, as the country’s 14th president.
Ram Nath Kovind won the election with more than 65% of the vote by members of India’s parliament and state assemblies. Kovind garnered 2,930 votes in a secret nationwide ballot involving around 5,000 lawmakers of 31 legislative assemblies across the country and 776 members of Parliament.
Ram Nath Kovind beat opposition Congress party candidate, Meira Kumar, who is a prominent parliament speaker and also a member of the Dalit community.
The 71-year-old was a former lawyer and state governor from the oppressed Dalit community.
Kovind will be sworn on Tuesday, July 25, as Pranab Mukherjee’s five-year term draws to an end this year.
Kovind’s Dalit Identity
The election of Ram Nath Kovind captured the interest of the public for his Dalit identity. Analysts say the marginalized group that represents around 200 million people in India will now be heard for their longings to be given priority. This is also affirmed by Kovind in his emotional speech after being declared president-elect. Kovind vowed to represent the less fortunate.
“It has been raining in Delhi since morning, and reminds me of my childhood in our ancestral village home, where we siblings used to huddle around the walls to avoid water from the leaking roof when it rained,” he said.
Kovind added, “Even today the country will have so many Ram Nath Kovinds working as daily wagers, farmers … sweating for their next meal. I want to tell them that I am going to the ‘President House’ as their representative.”
Kovind is the second Dalit to become Indian president, after K. R. Narayanan, an accomplished diplomat, who took office from 1997 to 2002.
Dalits, who are referred to as “untouchables,” belong to the lowest caste system in India. Historically viewed as “impure,” the marginalized group is tormented by social discrimination, persecution and exclusion.