NEW DELHI: Stunned by the BJP’s announcement of Bihar Governor Ram Nath Kovind as its candidate for the President, Opposition parties will hold a meeting on June 22 to take a call on fielding a consensus candidate against government’s nominee.
Reacting to NDA’s decision by calling it as “unilateral”, AICC general secretary Ghulam Nabi Azad said the non-NDA parties will discuss the issue before taking any step.
"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. We are not going to comment on the merits and demerits of the candidate. The final call will be taken in a meeting of all opposition parties on June 22," Azad briefed media after BJP chief Amit Shah announced the name for the top constitutional post on Monday afternoon after party’s parliamentary panel meet.
Indicating a possible split in the opposition, Samajwadi Party leader Naresh Agarwal said, "The parties will meet and decide whether or not to field a consensus opposition candidate for the July 17 presidential election,".
Earlier, a day before, Samajwadi Party patriarch Mulayam Singh Yadav had assured NDA leaders of his party's support in the presidential polls with the rider that the candidate should not be a strong saffron face.
In fact, the Mayawati-led BSP, extended support to Ram Nath Kovind’s, for Presidential, as party supremo Mayawati said that her party can’t oppose a candidate who hails from Dalit community. BSP has six seats in Rajya Sabha and 19 MLAs in Uttar Pradesh assembly. Mayawati is herself an Upper House MP.
“As he is a Dalit we are positive on his name, but only if the opposition doesn’t announce a popular Dalit name,” Mayawati said.
Criticising government by calling the BJP's efforts to reach out to the opposition through its senior leaders as a "formality and a PR exercise", Azad said as no names were discussed when senior BJP leaders M Venkaiah Naidu and Rajnath Singh met Congress president Sonia Gandhi last week. “The ruling party should have built consensus before announcing the candidate,” congress leader said.
"But they informed us after announcing this decision so there is no scope for consensus now... we were not expecting this from the ruling party. But it is their will, they are free to take a one-sided unilateral decision," Azad added.
However, Azad refrained from making comment on BJP fielding a Dalit candidate but maintained that minorities, backwards and Dalits were not priorities for the BJP-led government. Atrocities on Dalits in Saharanpur were a clear example of this.
Azad also made it clear that a representative from Janata Dal-United will also be part of the June 22 all opposition meeting, amidst speculations of Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar indicating support to NDA’s presidential candidate.
Even the left parties also joined the chorus with Congress for not consulting opposition before announcing government’s candidate for the President’s post.
CPI national secretary D Raja said Union ministers Rajnath Singh and M Venkaiah Naidu, who were part of the BJP's three-member panel formed to hold discussions and build a consensus on a presidential candidate, had not propose any name.
Raja, who claimed that Naidu spoke to him over the phone after BJP announced Kovind’s name and sought the CPI support, said that, "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.