India’s diversity should be preserved: President Ram Nath Kovind
New Delhi: Ram Nath Kovind took over on Tuesday as the 14th President of India and immediately struck all the right notes.
Acknowledging that India’s diversity—of religion, language and geography—was key to its success, Kovind said, “It is now time to show the world what we are capable of. We need to build an India that is an economic leader as well as a moral exemplar. An India that will provide equality of opportunity will be the India of the 21st century.”
Kovind was sworn in by Chief Justice of India J.S. Khehar at a ceremony held in the central hall of Parliament and attended by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, outgoing president Pranab Mukherjee, vice-president Hamid Ansari, Lok Sabha speaker Sumitra Mahajan, former prime minister Manmohan Singh, cabinet ministers, governors and chief ministers of various states.
Kovind was nominated for the post by the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) and succeeded in drawing support from various regional opposition parties including the Janata Dal (United) or JD(U), All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK) and Biju Janata Dal (BJD).
With the opposition unable to preserve its unity, Kovind’s was a foregone conclusion. The former governor of Bihar comfortably won the election against opposition candidate, former Lok Sabha speaker Meira Kumar last week, securing nearly two-thirds of the votes. Kovind bagged 2,930 votes with a total value of 702,044, while Kumar won 1,844 votes with a total value of 367,314.
Noting that India was approaching its 75th year of Independence in 2022, Kovind said, “What must also bother us is our ability to enhance access and opportunity for the last person and the last girl child from an underprivileged family if I may put it so, in the last house in the last village.”
Kovind, who is the second Dalit after K.R. Narayanan to take over as President, is a lawyer and served as Bihar governor for almost two years until his nomination. Born in Uttar Pradesh, he is a two-time member of the Rajya Sabha from the state.
“Coming here to central hall has brought so many memories. I have been a member of Parliament and in this central hall, I have held discussions with a lot of you. Sometimes we agreed while other times there were differences but we learned to respect each other and that is the beauty of democracy,” he said.
Addressing members of Parliament from the Bharatiya Janata Party ahead of the swearing-in, Prime Minister Modi said it was a significant milestone.
According to a leader present in the meeting, Modi said “The journey, which was started by Syama Prasad Mookerjee and during which many lakhs of people sacrificed everything, has reached a significant milestone today as the new President takes oath.”
Analysts described Kovind’s address as a good start to his tenure.
“It is a good start and continuity from where (Pranab) Mukherjee left off. He too had expressed similar concerns. The incumbent has picked up on those points and understood the concerns of the people. His comments on diversity and nation-building are important. His address was objective and statesman-like,” said N. Bhaskar Rao, a New Delhi-based political analyst.
PTI contributed to the story.