"Kovind who?" is how many leaders of the Bharatiya Janata Party reacted when Ram Nath Kovind was appointed the governor of Bihar in 2015 by the Modi government. Two years on, several political leaders have echoed similar sentiments after BJP declared Kovind as the party's candidate to become the 14th president of India. "In order to support someone, we must know the person. Who is this candidate?" West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee asked.
So why is the BJP projecting a leader who is relatively unknown not just to the public but also to many politicians. Political analysts have pointed out that the 71-year-old leader is a Dalit, and that the BJP hopes to continue to bolster its credentials in the Dalit community.
Here is what we know about Kovind —
1. Ram Nath Kovind is the governor of Bihar. Chief Minister Nitish Kumar heard about his appointment as the governor through the media. Kovind approved of Kumar's statewide liquor ban in September 2016.
2. He twice interrupted RJD chief Lalu Prasad Yadav's elder son Tej Pratap during the latter's swearing in ceremony. "It's apekshit(expected), not upekshit (neglected)," Kovind told the 28-year-old lawmaker.
3. He supported Prime Minister Narendra Modi's demonetisation drive. "As a result of demonetisation, weaker section of the society would get relief while the financial and trade activities would get a boost through greater transparency the measure would bring in," he said, last year.
4. He was born in Paraunkh village in Kanpur, Uttar Pradesh. He studied at B.N.S.D. Inter College and D.A.V. College, Kanpur, graduating with a B. Com and an LL.B. degree.
5. Kovind cracked the Indian Administrative Services exam in his third attempt, but he chose to practice law.
6. He is a lawyer by profession. He was a Central Government Advocate in the Delhi High Court from 1977 to 1979 and Central Government Standing Counsel in the Supreme Court from 1980 to 1993. He became Advocate-on-Record of the Supreme Court in 1978.
7. He worked as the private secretary of then prime minister Morarji Desai in 1977, before joining the BJP.
8. He has spent 12 years as a member of the Rajya Sabha, getting elected from Uttar Pradesh in 1994 and 2000.
9. He served as the chief of the BJP's Scheduled Caste Morcha from 1998 to 2002.
10. He campaigned in Dalit areas for the BJP in the 2012 Assembly election in UP. The Hindu nationalist party once regarded him as a candidate to challenge Mayawati's caste politics.
11. He helped in the construction of school buildings in Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand under MPLAD (Member of Parliament Local Area Development) Scheme.
12. He has worked on several parliamentary committees including Scheduled Castes/Tribes, Home Affairs, Petroleum and Natural Gas, Social Justice and Empowerment, and Law and Justice.
13. He is married to Shrimati Savita. They have a son and a daughter.
14. He likes reading books on social change, law and religion.
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