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India’s 14th President

22 Jul. 2017 1:41 AM IST

When Ram Nath Kovind won the election to become the 14th President of India with 65.65% of the total votes, while Kumar, drew 34.35% of all the votes, there were many who welcomed the second Dalit president as much as there were those who were apprehensive about the suspicion that the BJP-RSS would want to tinker with the constitution in the coming years. Kovind will assume office on 25 July 2017. When the BJP chose Ram Nath Kovind as the NDA nominee for president, it was an attempt to contain the anti-BJP Dalit upsurge in places like Hyderabad, Gujarat and Uttar Pradesh. Dalit politics apart, as the next President, Ram Nath Kovind will be conscious that he will be measured against the standards set by one of his worthy predecessors and the tenth president of India, KR Narayanan. Kovind will naturally be often be compared with Narayanan. Now that he has landed as the 1 occupant of the majestic Rashtrapati Bhavan at Raisina Hill, Kovind’s every decision will be judged by the yardstick of political neutrality . As per records available online, Kovind rose up the hard way from a very humble background. He is a lawyer by profession and was Central Government Advocate in the Delhi High Court from 1977 to 1979. Kovind also served as a Central Government standing counsel in the Hon’ble Supreme Court of India from 1980 to 1993. In 1978, he became an advocate-on-record of the Supreme Court of India. He practiced in the Delhi High Court and Supreme Court for about 16 years until 1993. He was also enrolled as an advocate in 1971 with the bar council of Delhi. As an advocate he provided free legal aid to weaker sections of society, women and the poor under the Free Legal Aid Society in New Delhi. He also served as the personal assistant of Prime Minister of India Morarji Desai in 1977-1978. Kovind was living in political obscurity and Narendra Modi and Amit Shah have put him on the national centre stage; indeed most Presidential candidates belong to a political party. However, one revealing fact about Kovind’s feelings about pluralism was highlighted in 2010 when,as the spokesperson of the Bharatiya Janata Party. During that year, Kovind courted controversy by saying that Islam and Christianity were alien to India. His comment was made in response to the Justice Ranganath Misra Commission which recommended 15 percent reservation for religious and linguistic minorities in government jobs. This comment ignites a fierce debate about what the next President of India thinks about citizens from other religious minorities. India hasn’t fully integrated within itself as communalism continues to be exploited by politicians for their own selfish interest. This has made religious minorities fearful of what could happen to them in the light of more pronounced polarisation taking place. Though the President’s is mostly a ceremonial office, at times of political uncertainty during government formation or recommendations for President’s rule, Rashtrapati Bhavan plays a significant role. Any hint of political bias at such critical moments would be held against him. The nation will keenly watch how he graduates out of his political affiliations.

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