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Ram Nath Kovind: Dalit, lawyer and old BJP hand

Press Trust of India  |  New Delhi 

His face doesn't grab airtime, his comments do not controversy and his actions seldom make The National Democratic Alliance's man for the country's highest constitutional post is as low profile as can be.

But Governor Ram Nath Kovind, 71, has attributes that not many in the large family can boast of. The Kanpur-born former lawyer is a Dalit leader, is known for his organisational skills and is a loyal member of the (BJP).

Names of several presidential probables from the stable were doing the rounds but Kovind, a former national spokesperson of the party, was not among them. While the choice may have surprised political watchers, it's an astute move for a party working overtime to expand its social base and win over new constituencies.

Kovind, who could well be India's 14th president if the numbers stack up, is married and has a son and a daughter.

chief said the party's parliamentary board went through a long list of potential candidates before choosing Kovind, who was its MP in the Rajya Sabha for two terms and headed its Dalit Morcha.

Kovind's links to the party's controversial Hindutva politics, however, are tenuous. Sources say he has been drawn more to the politics of social empowerment of Dalits and other weaker sections than the plank of religion.

Largely seen as an affable man, he has had a quiet innings as the governor of Bihar, a post that he took up in August 2015, months before assembly elections were held in the state.

It is an acknowledgement of his non-confrontational conduct that Chief Minister Nitish Kumar, who has been battling the in the state, lavished praise on him today, saying he had done "exemplary work" as governor.

Kumar, who had earlier been critical of the government's appointment of Kovind as governor, had then said he was not consulted about the move. But since then, the two have been getting along well, the sources said.

Kovind, a commerce graduate who also studied law at University, practised in the Delhi High and the Supreme He was also the Central government's standing counsel in the apex from 1980-93.

His official profile on the governor's website describes him as a crusader for "rights and cause of weaker sections of society specially Scheduled Castes/Scheduled Tribes/OBC/ minority..." from his student days.

Shah today highlighted his "humble background" and work for the cause of weaker sections as he appealed to the opposition parties to support Kovind as a consensus candidate.

The party's top brass would hope that by sending the only Dalit after K R Narayanan -- and the first from the Hindi heartland -- to Rashtrapati Bhavan, the would win over the community.

The has been seeking to widen its base beyond its traditional constituencies of upper castes and trading classes and has succeeded to a large extent, as seen in the UP assembly polls.

Kovind, who headed Dalit Morcha from 1998 to 2002, also led the All-Koli Samaj.

Elected to the Rajya Sabha in April 1994 from Uttar Pradesh, he served two consecutive terms till March 2006.

He joined a stir by SC/ST employees in 1997 when Dalits and others protested against orders issued by the Central government, which were rescinded by Atal Bihari Vajpayee when the came to power.

As an advocate, Kovind took the lead in providing freelegal aid to weaker sections, especially the SC/ST women, and poor and needy girls under the aegis of the Free Legal Aid Society in Delhi.

Known for his work in the field of education, he served as a member on the board of management of the Dr BR Ambedkar University, Lucknow, and was a member of the board of governors of the Indian Institute of Management, Kolkata.

(This story has not been edited by Business Standard staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

First Published: Mon, June 19 2017. 18:42 IST