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India's New President-elect to Take Oath by End of July

  • Supporters of Ram Nath Kovind present him with a garland during a welcoming ceremony in Ahmedabad, India, July 15, 2017.

    Supporters of Ram Nath Kovind present him with a garland during a welcoming ceremony in Ahmedabad, India, July 15, 2017. | Photo: Reuters

Published 21 July 2017

Many are viewing Kovind's appointment as an attempt to woo the Dalit community ahead of the 2019 general election.

The ruling National Democratic Alliance, NDA-backed Ram Nath Kovind will take office as India's 14th president by the end of July, giving the Prime Minister Narendra Modi's Bhartiya Janta Party and his right-wing government another powerful portfolio. 

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Kovind, a lawyer, won by an overwhelming majority beating Meira Kumar, also a Dalit (the lowest in the Indian caste system) candidate, backed by the centrist Congress party.

The President-elect secured 65 percent of the votes from an electoral college drawn from more than 4,000 members of 31 legislative assemblies across the nation and 776 members of Parliament.

Acknowledging his victory, 71-year-old former governor of Bihar, recalled his humble background, in a ‘kutcha’ mud-walled home in an Uttar Pradesh village.

It's straw roof "would not be able to stop water during the rain” and “we ..brothers and sisters would huddle around a wall, waiting for the rain to stop," he said. 

He added “There would be so many Ram Nath Kovinds in the country today, getting drenched in the rain, doing farm work, labour and sweating it out so that they can get their evening meals. I want to tell them that this Ram Nath Kovind of Paraunkh village is going to Rashtrapati Bhavan (President's House) as their representative". 

Kovind served two terms in the upper house of India's Parliament, the Rajya Sabha. He also practiced before the Supreme Court as a lawyer, before ascending to the highest public office in India. 

Modi congratulated Kovind Twitter, “Congratulations to Shri Ram Nath Kovind Ji on being elected the President of India! Best wishes for a fruitful & inspiring tenure,"  India's Prime Minister said. 

Amit Shah, BJP party chief said Kovind’s elections was a “victory for the poor, downtrodden and marginalized and their aspirations." 

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But many are viewing Kovind's appointment as Modi's attempt to woo the Dalit community as he prepares for the 2019 general election.

Dalits, who form almost 16 percent of India's population, have been experiencing an upsurge in violent attacks. 

Kovind’s presidency will further strengthen the grip of the Hindu right on public offices, such as governors, state chief ministers and the heads of universities.  

He's the first president who has grown under the nation's leading Hindu nationalist organisation, Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh. 

It's support helped to propel Modi to power.

Earlier this month, Kovind told Reuters,  "I respect the Indian constitution and no political interest can be above the rule enshrined in the rule book." 

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