BJP had thought of Kovind as alternative to Mayawati in UP
President Ram Nath Kovind delivers a speech at a welcome ceremony in Ahmedabad. He embarked on a nationwide tour after he was named as the BJP's presidential candidate. Photograph: (Reuters)
Ram Nath Kovind was sworn-in as the 14th President of India in Indian capital New Delhi today.
Born on October 1, 1945, President Kovind- who hails from a village in Uttar Pradesh - had to walk 8 kms each day to attend school in a neighbouring village.
A previously low-profile politician, the soft spoken Dalit leader spoke of his humble beginnings in his first speech after taking oath - he is only the second Dalit after KR Narayanan to assume India's highest public office.
"I grew up in a mud house, in a small village. My journey has been a long one, and yet this journey is hardly mine alone," he said.
"My election as President of India is to represent all such Kovinds toiling away to make a living," Kovind said on the day he was elected.
"I bow to the (1.25 billion) citizens of this great nation and promise to stay true to the trust they have bestowed on me," Kovind said in Parliament's central hall.
His political career began in 1977 as an aide to prime minister Morarji Desai during the Janata government's rule.
The 72-year-old was twice elected to the Rajya Sabha from Uttar Pradesh - from 1994 to 2000 and from 2000-2006. The party also tried to project him as an alternative to Dalit leader and former Uttar Pradesh chief minister Mayawati in the state.
His appointment is being viewed as a move to consolidate the Dalit vote for the BJP ahead of the 2019 general elections.
He is also a member of the Hindu nationalist organisation, the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS).
In 2002, Ram Nath Kovind represented India at the United Nations and addressed the UN General Assembly.
Ram Nath Kovind, who was appointed as the Governor of Bihar in 2015, resigned from the post after his presidential nomination.
A lawyer by profession, Ram Nath Kovind practised in the Delhi High Court and Supreme Court for about 16 years till 1993. He enrolled as an advocate in 1971 with the Bar Council of Delhi and became the Advocate-on-Record at the top court in 1978.
As an advocate he reportedly provided free legal aid to the underprivileged and women under the New Delhi's Free Legal Aid Society.
He was the BJP's Scheduled Caste Morcha chief from 1998 till 2002 and has also served as the party's national spokesperson from
Mr Kovind was also a member of the management board at Lucknow's BR Ambedkar University, and of the board of governors at the Indian Institute of Management, Kolkata.
Ram Nath Kovind is married to Savita Kovind. They have a son Prashant Kumar, and a daughter, Swati.