India's New President Is an 'Untouchable'

Ram Nath Kovind is a member of lower-caste Dalit community
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted Jul 20, 2017 11:44 AM CDT
India's New President Is an 'Untouchable'
India's new president, Ram Nath Kovind, receives flowers from well wishers in New Delhi.   (AP Photo/Manish Swarup)

Members of the low-caste Dalit community in India were once known as "untouchables." How times have changed: Two just competed against each other for the largely ceremonial office of president, and 71-year-old Ram Nath Kovind came out on top, reports CNN. In India, the real power is with the prime minister. Kovind isn't actually the first Dalit president, the first coming in 1997, notes NBC News. In fact, one analyst tells the network that the real significance of the election isn't the caste factor but its reflection of the growing power of the ruling BJP Party.

Both Kovind and Prime Minister Narendra Modi belong to the BJP (which is why the election was never really in doubt), and Modi's blessing of Kovind is seen as a calculated strategy to woo other members of the 200-million-strong Dalit community. "Dalit politics suddenly has come center stage with a bang," another analyst tells the New York Times. "Every leader is bending over backward to show, 'I am a well-wisher.'" India elects its vice president next month, and BJP is counting on another win to cement its influence over Parliament. (More India stories.)

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