By Nida Najar
— NEW DELHI
Dalit was elected India’s
14th president on July
20, a rare achievement
for a member of a community once known as
“untouchables” and one of the
most deprived groups in India.
Ram Nath Kovind, 71, an
understated politician from
Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s
governing Bharatiya Janata
Party, was selected as his party’s
candidate for the largely ceremonial position in an effort to
secure the Dalit vote in future
elections. That is a critical step in
the expansion of the party,
known as B.J.P., observers said.
“Modi is essentially a political
animal, and he’s conscious of the
political impact of a potential
move,” said Ashok Malik, an
analyst at the Observer Research
Foundation. In choosing a presi-
dential candidate, “he’s also
gone for somebody who could
The Indian president is elect-
ed by members of Parliament
and the state assemblies, so
given the B.J.P.’s strength
nationally and the support of
several other parties, the out-
come of the vote was never in
Kovind garnered more than
65 percent of the votes on the
way to becoming India’s second
In televised comments after
his victory, he spoke of the
country’s villagers and its working class.
“Today, I want to tell them
that Ram Nath Kovind is going to
the president’s house as their
representative,” he said. “My
election to the position of presi-
dent is the symbol of the great-
ness of Indian democracy.”
He was opposed for the office
by Meira Kumar, a Dalit from the
Indian National Congress party
who is a former
come center stage
with a bang,”
leader is bending
over backward to
show ‘I am a well-
Kovind was born Oct. 1, 1945,
in a village in the Kanpur district
of Uttar Pradesh into a family of
the Kori caste, known as under-
among the Dalits. He
has practiced as a
lawyer in the
Supreme Court and
served as a B.J.P.
member of the upper
house of Parliament
from 1994 to 2006.
Most recently, he was
the governor of Bihar.
Kovind’s connections to Uttar Pradesh
are also considered
India’s most popu-
lous state, it will figure promi-
nently in the 2019 general elec-
tion, when Modi will make every
effort to forge a broad coalition
among India’s Hindu majority.
Despite being the governing
party in Uttar Pradesh, the B.J.P.
has not historically captured
much of the Dalit vote, and
recent flare-ups over issues
affecting Dalits across the country could hurt the party politically.
Last year, a Dalit scholar committed suicide in Hyderabad
after being suspended following
altercations with a right wing
Hindu campus group.
Dalits have also been attacked
over suspicions of cow slaughter
by mobs of Hindus, who regard
cows as sacred. And there were
repeated clashes in May in Uttar
Pradesh between Dalits and
members of a higher caste.
Under Modi, the party has
nevertheless made some inroads
in the Dalit vote, and it has won
elections in Uttar Pradesh with
large margins in recent years.
Nilanjan Mukhopadhyay, a
journalist who has written a
biography of Modi, said Kovind
had been selected “purely
because of his identity, not his
The presidency, while a position of high esteem, has little
The president, among other
duties, has the ability to call
elections, break ties in
Parliament and issue death-row
The current president, Pranab
Mukherjee, who will step down
on July 24, occasionally used the
platform to draw attention to the
importance of tolerance, though
he was largely a cautious figure.
Kovind, as a B.J.P. member, is
expected to work in step with
the government. His selection is
another step in the party’s consolidation of power.
When it was last in power,
the party chose A.P.J. Abdul
Kalam, a pick more appealing to
the opposition because he was a
Muslim and not a party insider.
This time such an accommodation was unnecessary, analysts
“This is a milestone moment
for Indian politics,” Malik said.
— The New York Times
INDIA ABROAD July 28, 2017 25 INDIA
show ‘I am a
Ram Nath Kovind, 71, a Dalit, is from Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party
Wife Savita Kovind, family members and grand children offer sweets to Ram Nath Kovind after his win in Presidential election at 10 Akbar Road in New Delhi, July 20.
Pakistani court on July
18 lifted a ban on TV
The state-run media author-
ity imposed the ban on radio
and television networks airing
Indian content last October
amid heightened tensions
between the nuclear-armed
Court chief justice Mansoor Ali
Shah set aside the ban, calling
it “unreasonable restrictions,”
Asma Jehangir, a lawyer who
challenged the ban, told AFP.
Jehangir, acting for petitioner Leo Communication, the
parent organization of TV
channel s, had requested the
court to set aside the ban as in
violation of the rules and
beyond the powers of the regulatory authority.
An official from the regula-
tory authority confirmed to
AFP that the court “set aside
the ban” and allowed the
channels to air Indian TV
In a series of tit-for-tat
moves in the entertainment
industry, Pakistan last year
suspended screening of all
Indian movies until tensions
calmed, while Hindu nationalists in India have threatened
violence at cinemas showing
films with Pakistani actors.
Kashmir has been divided
between India and Pakistan
since the end of British colo-
nial rule in 1947. Both claim
the Himalayan territory in full
and the countries have fought
two wars over the region.
Tensions reached dangerous
levels last September, with
both sides blaming one anoth-
er for cross-border raids.
There have since been
repeated outbreaks of firing
across the frontier, with both
sides reporting deaths and
injuries including among civilians.
Lahore High Court chief justice calls it “unreasonable restrictions”
Pakistan Court Lifts Ban on Indian TV Shows