Ram Nath Kovind on Tuesday sworn-in as the 14th President of India in an impressive ceremony in the Central Hall of Parliament. Kovind was administered the oath of office to “preserve, protect and defend the constitution and law” by Chief Justice of India J S Kehar.
"I am thankful to you all for giving me the responsibility to be the President of India," the new President said in his address. "I come from a humble background. The journey has been long. I accept this post with humility."
The 71-year-old took oath in Hindi to thunderous applause and thumping of desks by the gathering, including Vice President Hamid Ansari, Lok Sabha Speaker Sumitra Mahajan, Prime Minister Narendra Modi, outgoing President Pranab Mukherjee and former president Pratibha Patil.
Former prime ministers Manmohan Singh and H D Devegowda, UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi, former Lok Sabha speaker Meira Kumar, former deputy prime minister L K Advani as well as Union ministers and foreign dignitaries were also present on the occasion.
After he took oath, Kovind was given a 21-gun salute to mark the assumption of office of the highest constitutional post in the country.
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Once the oath taking was over, Kovind and Mukherjee exchanged seats on the dais after which the new president delivered his maiden speech as president.
Kovind was elected with 65 per cent of votes defeating Meira Kumar to occupy the top post.The 71-year-old leader born in Kanpur, Uttar Pradesh, had also earned the support of the JD(U), which broke ranks with the “mahagathbandhan” because of his non-confrontational approach as governor of the state.
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A commerce graduate, Kovind studied law at the Kanpur University, practised in the Delhi High Court and the Supreme Court. He was also the central government’s standing counsel in the apex court from 1980-93.
Kovind, who headed Dalit Morcha from 1998 to 2002, also led the All-India Koli Samaj. Elected to the Rajya Sabha in April 1994 from Uttar Pradesh, he served two consecutive terms till March 2006.
Outgoing Mukherjee bows out of public life after a five-decade political career.
Diversity is key to India's success, says President Ram Nath Kovind
Kovind said the key to India’s success is its diversity and asked people to build a country that is “an economic leader as well as a moral exemplar”.
In his first address as president after taking oath at the Central Hall of Parliament, Kovind said there is need to sculpt an educated, ethical and shared community, and an egalitarian society.
“We have achieved a lot as a nation, but the effort to do more, to do better and to do faster is relentless. It is appropriate that the land of Lord Buddha should lead the world in its search for peace, tranquillity and ecological balance,” he said.
“The key to India’s success is its diversity. Our diversity is the core that makes us so unique. We need to build an India that is an economic leader as well as a moral exemplar. We need to sculpt a robust, high growth economy, an educated, ethical and shared community, and an egalitarian society,” the 71-year-old said.
India’s 14th president made special mention of women and their role in nation building. Nations, he said, are not built by governments alone and requires national pride.
“Each citizen of India is a nation builder. Those police and paramilitary forces that fight terrorism and crime are nation builders.
“Women who despite responsibilities at home and work raise children to be ideal citizens are nation builders,” he said.
The new president went on to say that a farmer toiling in the blazing sun to feed fellow citizens is a nation builder as is a scientist concentrating tirelessly to send an Indian space mission to Mars, or invent a vaccine.
“(A) nurse or doctor helping the sick to recover and fighting disease in a remote village, is a nation builder. Young person who founds a start-up and becomes a job creator is a nation builder,” he added.
Soon after taking the oath, Kovind had said he was honoured to be sworn in as the 14th president of India would be carrying out responsibilities “with all humility”.