Ram Nath Kovind, fielded by the ruling NDA for the highest office in the land, was elected the 14th President of India Thursday. He will be sworn in on July 25, the first from the BJP and the second Dalit to enter the Rashtrapati Bhavan. Kovind secured the votes of 65.65 per cent of the electoral college while the remaining 34.35 per cent went to Opposition candidate Meira Kumar, former Lok Sabha Speaker and also a Dalit.
In first remarks after the triumph, 71-year-old Kovind, former Bihar Governor, recalled his ‘kutcha’ home of mud walls in a village in Uttar Pradesh where “the straw roof would not be able to stop water during the rain” and “we all brothers and sisters would huddle around a wall, waiting for the rain to stop”.
“There would be so many Ram Nath Kovinds in the country today, getting drenched in the rain, doing farm work, labour and sweating it out so that they can get their evening meals. I want to tell them that this Ram Nath Kovind of Paraunkh village is going to Rashtrapati Bhavan as their representative,” the President-elect said.
“I never aspired to be the President. My win is a message to those discharging their duties with integrity. My election as the President is an evidence of the greatness of Indian democracy,” he told reporters. “I am feeling emotional.” Kovind secured the support of 2,930 with a value of 7,02,044 votes while 1,844 with a value of 3,67,314 votes backed Kumar in an electoral college of 4,896 with a total value of 10,69,358 votes.
Expressing happiness over the “extensive support” for Kovind in the electoral college, Prime Minister Narendra Modi tweeted: “Congratulations to Shri Ram Nath Kovind Ji on being elected the President of India! Best wishes for a fruitful & inspiring tenure.”
When they met soon after, Modi offered Kovind a sweet and a stole while BJP president Amit Shah looked on. Shah said Kovind’s elections was a “victory for the poor, downtrodden and marginalised and their aspirations”. The Prime Minister also congratulated Meira Kumar “for her campaign, which was in spirit of the democratic ethos & values we all are proud of”.
Kumar, on her part, congratulated Kovind, saying it has now fallen on him to uphold the Constitution in letter and spirit in “these challenging times”. She said that her fight for secularism, the oppressed and the marginalised would continue.
Those who greeted Kovind included Lok Sabha Speaker Sumitra Mahajan, Congress president Sonia Gandhi, Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi, CPM general secretary Sitaram Yechury, CPI national secretary D Raja, Chief Ministers, MPs and MLAs.
Extending her best wishes to Kovind, Sonia Gandhi, in a statement, said: “The President of India enjoys a unique position as defender and protector of the Constitution, upholder of democratic traditions and as supreme commander of the Indian armed forces.” Among the Chief Ministers who called was Nitish Kumar of Bihar whose party, the JD (U), broke Opposition ranks to back Kovind’s candidature.