India's ruling party picks Dalit as presidential candidate

2017-06-19 17:09
This handout photograph from the Indian Press Information Bureau (PIB) taken on January 5, 2017 shows Bihar Governor Ram Nath Kovind seeing off Prime Minister Narendra Modi on his departure from Patna. (File, AFP)

This handout photograph from the Indian Press Information Bureau (PIB) taken on January 5, 2017 shows Bihar Governor Ram Nath Kovind seeing off Prime Minister Narendra Modi on his departure from Patna. (File, AFP)

Multimedia   ·   User Galleries   ·   News in Pictures Send us your pictures  ·  Send us your stories

New Delhi - India's ruling party on Monday 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.

Ram Nath Kovind, 71, is likely to take up the largely ceremonial post when the term of Pranab Mukherjee ends in July, becoming the second Dalit to be India's head of state.

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

"Ram Nath Kovind has always fought for the betterment of the Dalits and other backward castes," BJP chief Amit Shah said at a press conference to announce the party's candidate.

"The BJP ... hopes that a person born in a poor family of low-caste Dalit community will be a consensus candidate for the president's post."

Kovind's nomination follows huge protests in 2016 by members of the historically marginalised Dalit community, who make up around 17% of India's population.

The protests broke out after four young Dalits were stripped naked and publicly flogged after being falsely accused of killing a cow, an animal Hindus consider sacred.

The outrage was compounded by the savage beating of a pregnant woman and her husband after they refused to allow higher-caste men to graze cattle on their land.

The BJP has traditionally enjoyed the support of upper-caste Hindus but has been wooing low-caste voters to broaden its nationwide appeal.

Kovind, a two-time parliamentarian and current governor of the eastern state of Bihar, is a lifelong supporter of the Hindu nationalist BJP and a relative unknown in Indian politics.

He has also headed groups that work for the betterment of Dalits, previously known as untouchables, who lie at the bottom of India's deeply entrenched social hierarchy.

The opposition, led by the Congress Party, will reportedly meet on Thursday to decide whether to name a separate candidate or support Kovind.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi tweeted that Kovind would "make an exceptional president" and "continue to be a strong voice for the poor, downtrodden and marginalised".

If elected, he will be India's second Dalit president after K R Narayanan, who served from 1997 to 2002.

Join the conversation! encourages commentary submitted via MyNews24. Contributions of 200 words or more will be considered for publication.

We reserve editorial discretion to decide what will be published.
Read our comments policy for guidelines on contributions.

Inside News24


Play with your pet when you're not at home

Many pets are alone at home during the week while their owners are at work. So what do these animals get up to while they’re home alone?



How to get rid of fleas
12 Cool cat facts
Chocolate can be fatal for dogs
Spider-man star's adorable relationship with his dog
Traffic Alerts
There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.


Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.

Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire network.


Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.

Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.