Leaders cutting across party lines were unanimous on Thursday that the new President of India is a low-profile politician, a deeply spiritual individual, and a perfect gentleman. He had never been in the headlines — either as a politician or as a Dalit leader — before being named the NDA’s nominee. No one inside or outside Parliament had anything to say against him.
“Kovindji has got 116 votes more than the votes of NDA, which means many voters went by their conscience and voted for Kovindji. He got votes from all states, and the entire electoral college voted for him in Andhra Pradesh. He won more votes than expected from the Northeast too. This shows he is a President accepted by all,” Bhupender Yadav, BJP general secretary, said.
Kovind has always worked silently, said several people who have watched him closely. BJP spokesperson Bizay Sonkar Shastri recalled how, as the party’s Dalit Morcha leader, he had secretly given a cheque of Rs 11,000 to run the magazine Dalit Andolan Patrika which was struggling to find funds.
Savita, the wife of India’s second Dalit president, worked for Mahanagar Telephone Nigam Limited (MTNL) in Delhi. She joined as Telephone Operator and took voluntary retirement as Chief Section Superviser in 2005. She was looking after 197 (special telephone enquiry services) at Kidwai Bhawan at the time. Said a woman employee of MTNL who has worked with Savita, “I worked as her subordinate for four years and at that time we knew that she was the wife of an MP. She is polite and of a very good nature.”
Savita’s father was a refugee who came from Lahore, and her parents lived in Lajpat Nagar when she married Kovind in 1974. Said their son Prashant Kumar, “All my maternal uncles and aunts (mausis) are settled in Delhi.” Prashant, 41, is the elder among the Kovinds’ two children. He has a petrol pump near the Air Force Station, Hindon, in Ghaziabad. Prashant has spent 18 years in the aviation sector, and until two years ago, was a Cabin Manager with Jet Airways.
“I am not in politics, and I am not interested in it,” Prashant said. He went to Delhi’s Sardar Patel Vidyalaya, and has a Diploma in Hotel Management from the Institute of Hotel Management, Catering and Nutrition, Pusa, Delhi. Prashant’s wife, Gauri Kumar, is a teacher at the junior wing of Air Force Bal Bharti School on Delhi’s Lodhi Road.
The Kovind’s daughter, Swati, is a Cabin Superviser with Air India. Swati went to Kendriya Vidyalaya in Delhi, and then did her Psychology (Hons) from Delhi’s Lady Shriram College.