India's presidential election: Profile of the two candidates

NEW DELHI - India's federal and state lawmakers voted on Monday (July 17) for the country's 14th President, with ruling party candidate Ram Nath Kovind expected to edge out opposition party candidate Meira Kumar.

Mr Kovind, a low profile politician better known for working behind the scenes, belongs to the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party and has the support of more than 60 per cent of the electoral college consisting of 776 MPs and 4,120 Members of state assemblies.

Ms Kumar, the Congress' pick, has the support of all the other major opposition parties.

Both candidates are Dalits, formerly known as untouchables.

Here's a closer look at the two figures vying for the role.

 

RAM NATH KOVIND

A lawyer turned politician, he only came to national prominence when he was elected by the Bharatiya Janata Party as its presidential candidate. The 71-year old is said to have close links to the Hindu nationalist group Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, the ideological backbone of the BJP.

Between 1977 and 1978, he served as a personal assistant to former Prime Minister Morarji Desai.

He practised in the Supreme Court before joining the BJP in 1991. In a career spanning over two decades, he has been elected twice to the Upper House of Parliament and served as national spokesperson of the BJP.

He was serving as governor of Bihar from August 2015 when he was announced as the BJP's presidential candidate.

MEIRA KUMAR

India's first woman Speaker (2009 to 2014) is known for her calm demeanour even when faced with agitating MPs in Parliament.

Ms Kumar, 72, comes from a well known political family, being the daughter of Jagjivan Ram, who was a former deputy Prime Minister.

Ms Kumar, a law graduate, joined the Indian Foreign Service in 1975 and served in missions in Mauritius and United Kingdom.

She joined the Congress party and won her first MP election in 1985 in Uttar Pradesh.

A five-time MP, she has served as the minister of social justice and empowerment under former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's Cabinet.