At Jhinjhak Nagar Palika in Uttar Pradesh’s Kanpur Dehat district, 76-year old Pyarelal awaits a formal confirmation from his younger brother Ram Nath Kovind that he has been picked as NDA’s presidential candidate. Pyarelal’s son Deepak has called Patna’s Raj Bhavan twice since they heard the news. “But we are yet to get a call back. Ram Nath would be busy in Delhi. It is a big day for him and for all of us. There is a mood of celebration in our ancestral village, Paraukh,” said Pyarelal, who lives with his family in Jhinjhak and runs a garment shop.
Kovind was a “bright student” who moved to Kanpur city to pursue Commerce and Law from Kanpur University, after finishing Class XII from Khanpur town of Kanpur Dehat, said Pyarelal. “He was preparing for Civil Services examination in Delhi when he came in contact with Jana Sangh leader from Ujjain Hukum Chand. He had worked with former Prime Minister Morarji Desai before that. But he became active in politics when BJP decided to give him a Lok Sabha ticket from Ghatampur in 1991. He lost. He also contested an assembly election from Bhognipur and lost again. He is a dedicated BJP leader,” said Pyarelal, adding that the family never thought one of them would reach this stature. “We are proud of him,” he said.
While BJP chief Amit Shah Monday said Kovind was “born in a poor Dalit family”, Pyarelal claimed their father Maikulal was the “Chaudhary of Paraukh village”. Maikulal, he said, was also a “vaidh (practitioner of ayurveda)” who ran grocery and garment shops in the village. “We led a normal life in a middle-class family. There was no crisis. All five brothers and two sisters got an education. One brother retired as an accounts officer in Madhya Pradesh while another was a government school teacher. Ram Nath become a lawyer while some others did business,” said Pyarelal, who remembers spending a month at Raj Bhawan when he was undergoing knee treatment.
Pyarelal said the surname ‘Kovind’ was added to the family name by Ram Nath. “I don’t know why he did so. But when he added the surname after entering politics, other brothers accepted it and added the name as well,” he said.
Kovind last visited Jhinjhak and Paraukh in December, 2016. His family said that when he was a Rajya Sabha member for two terms from UP, he worked to improve roads in Jhinjhak. “He also converted our parental home in Paraukh into a Milan Kendra and dedicated that to villagers to provide accommodation to baratis during marriage functions,” said Anil Kumar, Kovind’s cousin who takes care of the Milan Kendra.
Paraukh has nearly 4,500 voters — majority of them Thakurs and Brahmins. There are only four Dalit families in the village. “You can see celebrations with drums are going on outside the adjoining house, which belongs to a Thakur. Everyone is happy that a person from our village is set to be the President,” Kumar said. BJP district president Rahul Agnihotri and several BJP MLAs and leaders from the district visited the village through the day, distributing sweets to residents.
Kovind’s nephew Deepak, who works as a government school teacher, said, “Ram Nath uncle had four brothers and three sisters. They have 27 children in total. Some asked for favours from Ram Nath chacha for a better job several times. But he denied it, saying, ‘Maine jaise swayam safalta paayi, vaise tum log bhi mehnat karo (Just like I achieved success on my own, all of you should work hard too)’.”