India’s Potential Next Prime Minister Comes From The Lowest Caste

The candidate is part of the dalit community, the lowest caste of India’s hierarchical system.

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Ram Nath Kovind meets Prime Minister Narendra Modi in New Delhi. Source: Hindustan Times

In India, the ancient stratification system has never been ignored. Last year several turbulent protests of the caste system resulted in 15 dead and hundreds injured. Now, history is in the making as India’s potential next prime minister is an “untouchable”.

Ram Nath Kovind is the official candidate from the current prime minister of India Narendra Modi’s party, and a member of the dalit (Untouchables) community. This is one of the poorest and most oppressed castes existing in India.

According to a report by BBC News, caste stratification divides Hindus into four categories: Brahmins, Kshatriyas, Vaishyas and the Shudras . “At the top of the hierarchy were the Brahmins who were mainly teachers and intellectuals and are believed to have come from Brahma’s head. Then came the Kshatriyas, or the warriors and rulers, supposedly from his arms. The third slot went to the Vaishyas, or the traders, who were created from his thighs. At the bottom of the heap were the Shudras, who came from Brahma’s feet and did all the menial jobs”, explains the report.

The dalits stand outside of this categorical system, marginalized by Indian society, suffering for centuries from extreme poverty and social exclusion. However, Kovind — former governor of Bihar — was recently announced as a candidate for President of Narendra Modi’s party, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).

Kovind is expected to be elected as the next president of India. This week, a secret ballot will decide between Kovind and his rival, Meira Kumar, also a member of the dalit community. The nationwide event gathered up the votes of over 5,000 state and federal officials.

Results will be announced this week and it’s expected that Kovind’s victory will help the BJP — who have been winning local positions since 2014 — gain even greater power. Although the president’s role in India is mainly ceremonial, if elected, Kovind will have great influence during times of political ambiguity.

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