Low-caste Dalits face off in Indian presidential contest

17 Juillet, 2017, 17:59 | Author: Claudine Rigal
  • Ram Nath Kovind, the National Democratic Alliance government’s candidate for the presidential election gesturing as he leaves an NDA meeting with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi ® and top Bharatiya Janata Party leader L.K. Advani

Ram Nath Kovind, the candidate of Modi´s right-wing Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and a former lawyer and state governor from the Dalit community, is certain to win.

The results of the election will be announced on July 20.

Kovind is also backed by several regional parties.

Kumar is a former diplomat and long-standing federal lawmaker who is also from the Dalit caste group.

Kovind's main opponent is Meira Kumar of the Congress party. The victor will replace incumbent President Pranab Mukherjee and will be sworn into office for a five-year term a week later.

Narendra Modi, India's prime minister, was among the first to cast his vote at a booth in Parliament.

"The presidential poll this time is historic".

But the BJP, which won a landslide in a general election in 2014, has for the first time assembled enough electoral college votes across the country to push through its presidential candidate.

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"Every political party has kept in mind the dignity of this election".

Amit Shah, President of India's ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), leaves after casting his vote for the ceremonial post of president at the Parliament House in New Delhi, India, July 17, 2017.

Congress president Sonia Gandhi rallied opposition ranks before the vote, calling the contest a "clash of ideas and a conflict of disparate values".

The victor of the contest will be India's second president belonging to the Dalit community, after KR Narayanan, who was president between 1997-2002.

Dalits, formerly known as untouchables, are on the lowest rank of India's tradition social system based on caste.

The president, however, has an important role to play when elections produce hung parliaments, state governments are dissolved and during other political crises.

Some presidents, such as outgoing President Pranab Mukherjee, have tried to act as conscience-keepers, using their constitutional authority as the head of state to defend India's founding principles as a secular, diverse democracy.

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