Modi's party backs low-caste leader for president of India

Published: June 19, 2017
India's Presidential Palace is pictured in New Delhi, India October 1, 2016. PHOTO: REUTERS

India's Presidential Palace is pictured in New Delhi, India October 1, 2016. PHOTO: REUTERS

NEW DELHI: India’s ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has proposed that a politician from a low caste become the next president, its top strategist said on Monday, in a move to consolidate the party’s support among poorer voters.

The BJP’s parliamentary board backed the nomination of Ram Nath Kovind, governor of the state of Bihar, party president Amit Shah told a news conference in New Delhi.

Kovind’s nomination to the largely ceremonial post of president would be expected to garner enough votes from the BJP and its allies in an electoral college that brings together federal and state lawmakers.

“We hope to have a political consensus,” Shah said.

Shah, Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s closest adviser and top campaign strategist, played up the humble origins of Kovind, 71, who has served two terms in the upper house of parliament and is a practising lawyer.

Modi picks Hindu hardliner to lead Uttar Pradesh

Kovind also used to lead a BJP unit that represents Dalits, a community at the bottom of the traditional caste hierarchy of Hinduism. “Ramnath has risen through the political ranks, waging a long and hard struggle as a Dalit,” said Shah.

The BJP’s traditional support base is among upper-caste Hindus but the party has sought to broaden its appeal, winning a landslide victory in a state election in Uttar Pradesh in March with the backing of many low-caste voters.

Nominations close on June 28 and the electoral college would hold a vote, should one be required, on July 17, according to the Election Commission of India.

Under a complex electoral formula, the BJP and its allies control 48.1 percent of votes in the electoral college. They should be able to count on enough support from other parties to secure a majority, say BJP officials.

Incumbent President Pranab Mukherjee’s term ends on July 24.

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Reader Comments (2)

  • Bunny Rabbit
    Jun 19, 2017 - 3:05PM

    This too is a casteism of one kind . this candidate’s identity seems to be low-caste . that seems to be the magnet to pull votes in his favour. what about his credentials / achievements ?Recommend

  • Hmm
    Jun 19, 2017 - 5:54PM

    @Bunny Rabbit
    Yes, his caste is certainly a plus point. But you should look at his credentials, mentioned in TOI, HT, IE etc. Indeed, they are impressive. All in all, he seems worthy of the post.Recommend

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