Ram Nath Kovind was elected India’s new president Thursday, the second time since independence a head of state has been chosen from the bottom of the Hindu caste system. Kovind won the largely ceremonial position with more than 65 per cent of the vote by members of India’s parliament and state assemblies, the election commission said. The 71-year-old former lawyer and state governor from the marginalised Dalit community was nominated by Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s ruling party for post.
The opposition Congress Party also put forward a Dalit candidate, a former parliamentary speaker Meira Kumar. But Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) assembled enough electoral college votes to push through its candidate and the outcome was expected. Kovind is a longtime associate of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, or National Volunteer Corps, a Hindu group that has been accused of stoking religious hatred against Muslims.—AFP