Opposition unity in disarray
The nomination of Bihar Governor Ram Nath Kovind as NDA’s Presidential nominee has put the Opposition in a quandary. In some Opposition circles, name of former Lok Sabha Speaker Meira Kumar was doing the rounds as a possible candidate, but there was no clarity on the issue.
The TRS and the BJD have supported the BJP’s choice. With Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar hailing Kovind’s candidature and Mayawati ready to back the NDA nominee if the Opposition does not field a Dalit candidate, the Opposition would struggle to put up a united candidate to take on Kovind.
The Opposition parties will now meet on June 22 to decide on fielding a consensus candidate. Senior Congress leader Ghulam Nabi Azad said the non-NDA parties will discuss the issue before taking any step. Whether Nitish Kumar would attend the June 22 meeting, Azad said he had himself called the Bihar Chief Minister who assured him that there would be somebody from his Janata Dal(United). The NCP too will be a part of the UPA members’ meeting to decide on their Presidential candidate.
Azad said that the BJP had taken a “unilateral decision”. “The Congress does not want to comment on this issue as we want to take a unanimous decision with all other Opposition parties on the presidential elections. The final call will be taken in a meeting of all Opposition parties on June 22,” Azad said.
Asked to comment on the BJP fielding a Dalit candidate for the top constitutional post, Azad said, “...I don’t want to comment on this...I don’t want to comment on the merits and demerits of the candidate.”
While another Dalit leader former Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Mayawati stated her stand would be “positive’ towards Kovind’s candidature provided Opposition doesn’t field its own Dalit candidate, West Bengal CM Mamata Banerjee and the Left parties have outright rejected Kovind’s name. The NCP expressed surprise over the NDA’s choice.
Mamata said just because Kovind was the leader of BJP Dalit Morcha, they have made him the Presidential candidate but he cannot match the stature of someone like incumbent President Pranab Mukherjee, or even Sushma Swaraj or LK Advani, who could have been the party’s choice.
CPI leader D Raja said Union Ministers Rajnath Singh and M Venkaiah Naidu, who were part of the BJP’s panel formed to hold discussions and build a consensus on a Presidential candidate, had not proposed any name.
“Now, they have named a person with RSS background.
We are against it, but we will have to discuss the issue within the CPI and with other Opposition parties. A meeting will be held soon to discuss the same,” he said.
A PTI report from Bhubaneshwar said that Biju Janata Dal (BJD) president and Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik preferred to keep his party’s stand on NDA’s presidential candidate Ram Nath Kovind under wraps.
“I will discuss the matter with the senior leaders of the party before taking any decision as regards the BJD’s stand on the Presidential polls,” the CM told reporters.
CPI(M) general secretary Sitaram Yechury said that the non-NDA parties will take the decision “keeping in mind the country’s history that the ruling and Opposition parties contested the polls on all occasion except once”.
“It was their (NDA’s) proposal that they will get back to the Opposition after zeroing on a candidate. They did not come back to the Opposition and announced the candidate,” Yechury said. “So, we said the Opposition will meet and take a decision on June 22. All the opposition parties will try to reach a common decision,” he added.
The Opposition YSR Congress party in Andhra Pradesh, however, announced its support to the NDA’s presidential candidate. YSRC president YS Jagan Mohan Reddy announced that his party would support Kovind’s candidature for the top post as he was a Dalit leader. The YSRC has 10 MPs and 66 MLAs. Another opposition AINRC in Puducherry also extended support to Ram Nath Kovind’s candidature. AINRC has strength of eight members in the 30 member Puducherry Assembly.
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