New Delhi: A lawyer-turned-politician, NDA presidential candidate Ram Nath Kovind, 71, has been a champion of rights for Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes, OBCs and women since his student days.
Naming Mr Kovind, a dalit from the Hindi heartland, as its nominee for the country’s top constitutional post is seen as a “political masterstroke” by the BJP, which has clearly split the Opposition ranks.
Appointed as Bihar governor in 2015, Mr Kovind has remained a non-controversial figure, who headed the BJP Dalit Morcha (1998-2002), served as the party's national spokesman and was the All-India Koli Samaj’s president. A commerce graduate and LL.B, from Kanpur University in Uttar Pradesh, Mr Kovind is known for organisational skills in the party. He practised in the Delhi High Court and the Supreme Court and was a Central government standing counsel in the Supreme Court in 1980-93.
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a stir by SC/ST employees in 1997 when dalits and others protested against the orders issued by the Centre, which were rescinded by Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee when the NDA came to power.
As an advocate, Mr Kovind took the lead in providing free legal aid to the weaker sections, specially SC/STs and 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 B.R. Ambedkar University, Lucknow, and was on the board of governors of Indian Institute of Management, Kolkata.
If elected, Mr Kovind will become the second governor from Bihar to reach the post, after Dr Zakir Hussain.