NEW DELHI: With caste competitive politics playing out in the Presidential election, the Opposition on Thursday made it certain that the next President would be a Dalit by propping up former Lok Sabha Speaker Meira Kumar as the joint candidate against Ram Nath Kovind of the NDA. While the Opposition apparently bailed out the moral dilemma of the BSP chief Mayawati by giving an alternative Dalit candidate, the seeming chasm between the JD (U) and the RJD looks to deepen further, with likely impact on the future of the ruling Bihar “Mahagathbandhan”.
The 17 parties Opposition jamboree, which was joined by the Ajit Singh led RLD commanding a few hundred votes in the electoral college, decided to throw the weight behind the diplomat turned politician Meira Kumar, who claims to inherit Dalit political legacy of Babu Jagjivan Ram. A relieved Mayawati, while announcing BSP support to Kumar, said that the “Opposition candidate is more capable and competent”.
However, the JD (U) did not take the bait, with the party national general secretary K C Tyagi saying that “political decisions aren’t changed in minutes and seconds”. His response came in the wake of the RJD chief Lalu Prasad terming JD (U) support to Kovind a “historical blunder”, while vowing to meet the Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar in a bid to persuade him to change the decision.
However, Kumar, who reportedly shares warm relations with Kovind, has given the assurance to senior BJP leaders that his stance would remain firm.
But the BJP is working overtime to dwarf the Opposition jamboree by ensuring that a minimum of 20 chief ministers lead Kovind in filing the nomination papers on Friday. The Prime Minister Narendra Modi, BJP chief Amit Shah and senior leaders will accompany Kovind when he files nomination papers at 11.45 am on Friday. Besides all NDA chief ministers, Telangana chief minister K Chandrashekhar Rao and a few others would attend Kovind’s filing of the nomination papers.
The Opposition meeting in the Parliament House was preceded by a small brainstorming of key leaders at the residence of the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) chief Sharad Pawar, who had zeroed in on three names – Meira Kumar, former Union Minister for Home Affairs Sushil Kumar Shinde, and Rajya Sabha MP Balchand Mungekar. The CPI (M) general secretary Sitaram Yechury had two names with him – Prakash Ambedkar and Gopal Krishna Gandhi, grandsons of B R Ambedkar and Mahatma Gandhi respectively. In the Opposition meeting in the evening, the unanimous Opposition choice was Kumar, who expressed “gratitude and delight at the grand unity among political parties”.
While the BJP termed the Opposition choice of Meira Kumar as a “scapegoat”, the JD (U) leader Pawan Kumar Verma said that “Ram Nath Kovind is already a President in the waiting”.
Even while the Opposition sought to blunt the BJP’s bid to demolish its unity with a Dalit Presidential candidate, the saffron outfit is making spirited efforts to make further dent. While the Congress seemingly antagonised Aam Admi Party (AAP), which command about 5,000 votes in the electoral college, Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal seems in a clear dilemma. The BJP leaders appeared hopeful that a good number of AAP legislators from Punjab would back Kovind on July 17.