Cracks have appeared in the Opposition’s resolve to field a common candidate with “impeccable secular credentials” for President after the ruling BJP announced Bihar Governor Ram Nath Kovind as its nominee.
The 17-party Opposition now appears confused, with parties such as the JD(U) and the BSP indicating that they are amenable to the BJP’s choice. A final decision by the Opposition parties, however, is expected on Thursday.
Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar told reporters after meeting Kovind, who is the State’s Governor, that his JD(U) would have a discussion on the BJP’s candidate. “I had a word with Laluji and Sonia Gandhi and there will be discussion on this,” he said.
The BSP said they are “positive” on Kovind’s name and added that it would support the Opposition only if it fields a Dalit candidate. “[Kovind] comes from a Dalit background; so our stand will never be negative towards him, but will be positive forever,” Mayawati said. She added that it would have been better had the NDA taken the Opposition parties in ‘good faith’ before announcing his name.
Indicating a contest, the Congress expressed unhappiness that Kovind’s name was announced without consultations with the Opposition. The Left parties, which object to Kovind’s Sangh Parivar moorings, said the Opposition will field a candidate after Thursday’s meeting.
Opposition leader in the Rajya Sabha Ghulam Nabi Azad said the Opposition will take decision at the meeting on Thursday, to be chaired by party’s President Sonia Gandhi. “We do not want to comment on the name of the candidate announced by the government. We only want to say that we had expected that before making a final decision on the candidate, the BJP will try to build consensus. But that did not happen,” Azad said.
CPI(M) General Secretary Sitaram Yechury said contests have happened in almost all Presidential elections in the past. “Kovindji was the chief of RSS’s Dalit branch. So somewhere it is a political fight or contest,” he said. “When Ministers Rajnath Singh and Venkaiah Naidu came to meet us, they said that they want to build a consensus. When we asked on whom they want to build consensus, they had no answer then. They said that when they decide, they will come back to us with a proposal. But instead of coming to us with the proposal they announced the candidate. Now we will take a call,” he added