Ram Nath Kovind was a little upset with the BJP leadership after he was denied the Lok Sabha ticket for the Orai (SC) seat in Uttar Pradesh. After Amit Shah became party president after the elections, Kovind was made general secretary and, in August 2015, appointed Governor of Bihar. Interestingly, three months earlier, then UP BJP chief Lakshmikant Vajpayee had removed him from the post of general secretary of the state unit.
The Dalit Koli (Hindu weaver) leader from Kanpur Dehat district used to be close to then Chief Minister Kalyan Singh, who is now Governor of Rajasthan. It was Kalyan who decided to send him to Rajya Sabha, where he had two consecutive terms from 1994. In 1991, Kovind had contested the Ghatampur (SC) LS seat, but lost to Janata Dal’s Keshari Lal by over 43,000 votes. He subsequently contested the UP Assembly election for the Bhognipur (SC) seat in 2007, and came third behind BSP’s Raghunath Prasad and SP’s Arun Kumari.
The low profile Kovind has practised as an advocate in Delhi. He was active in the BJP, and closely associated with, besides Kalyan, L K Advani. In 1998, when Kushabhau Thakre was BJP president, Kovind was made chief of the party’s Scheduled Caste wing. He is the longstanding president of the All India Koli Samaj, a community with sizeable populations in districts such as Kanpur and Faizabad.
The NDA’s nominee for President is married to Savita Kovind, a government employee who has now retired. Their son Prashant Kumar works for a private airline. The Kovinds have a daughter as well.
Kovind was not active for the BJP or RSS in Kanpur, and rarely met with leaders of the organisations on his visits to his family home in the city’s Indira Nagar neighbourhood. But he has been closely associated with several RSS pracharaks, and gave his MPLADS funds for several schools run by the Sangh. A senior RSS pracharak named Ramasheesh played a key role in his bid for the Lok Sabha in 1991. Kovind is also learnt to be close to another senior RSS pracharak, Veereshwar Dwivedi, who is currently with the Vishwa Hindu Parishad.
Says an RSS pracharak who is considered close to Kovind, “He is a self-made man who got nothing from the earlier generation. All that he has, he has acquired himself.”
With the announcement of his candidature, the BJP has played a deft hand in UP: with the SP, BSP and Congress showing signs of an understanding ahead of the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, the nomination of Kovind is intended to send a powerful signal to Dalits.