Koris, Kolis, and the importance of Kovind as President in Gujarat

The veteran Telegraph journalist Radhika Ramaseshan, a longstanding specialist on UP politics, has an interesting piece in Deccan Herald on the symbolism behind the choice of Ram Nath Kovind as the NDA’s presidential nominee:

“The Kori sub-caste of Dalits he belongs to, traditionally wove “kora kapda” or coarse cloth but the community fell on bad times with the adoption of mechanised power looms, gave up weaving and took to tilling land….

“The Koris form just 1.1% (22.93 lakh, according to the 2011 census) of Uttar Pradesh’s SC population of which the Jatavs constitute 54.23% and the Pasis 15.77%. The larger message for the Dalits in Kovind’s candidacy was that those left out of the power loop by the BSP’s alleged pro-Jatav policies and politics need not despair because the BJP has space for them….

“The BJP has envisaged a role for Kovind that transcended Uttar Pradesh.

“The party encashed on his association with the Kolis of Gujarat, although the Koris and Kolis have nothing in common.

“The Kolis are classified among the other backward classes in Gujarat and have traditionally fished for a living. Yet, hours after Kovind’s nomination was announced on June 19, the Gujarat BJP put out a statement expressing the Koli community’s happiness with Prime Minister Narendra Modi. The communiqué let it be known that as the leader of the Kolis, Kovind had worked for their education and betterment.

“Then the penny dropped. The statement said the Kolis constituted “over 20%” of Saurashtra’s population, a claim that acquires a political context because Gujarat votes in November this year. Obviously, once in office, Kovind cannot campaign for the BJP. “

Read the full article: Ram Nath Kovind, symbolism and substance