As the BJP announced its presidential candidate yesterday, the opposition, hesitated to question his credentials but said it will hold a meeting on 22 June to chalk out its strategy. The opposition leaders have agreed to attend 22 June meeting which is to be chaired by Congress President Sonia Gandhi to take a final decision on the 17 July presidential election, senior Congress leader Ghulam Nabi Azad said.
Reacting to Ramnath Kovind’s selection as ND’s presidential candidate, West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee expressed surprise over the name and said that “in order to support someone, we must know the person”.
“Candidate should be someone who will be beneficial for the country. The opposition will meet on June 22 — only then we can announce our decision,” she said. Sulking BJP ally Shiv Sena too indicated its unhappiness, saying it was not consulted on the candidate.
Kovind, 71, is a Dalit leader from Kanpur who has been elected twice to the Rajya Sabha from Uttar Pradesh and a former BJP spokesperson, is the prime face of the BJP’s Dalit politics. Notably, Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar hailed Kovind’s role as state Governor but remained non-committal on supporting him.
While the Communist Party of India-Marxist leader Sitaram Yechury said Kovind “was chief of the RSS’s Dalit branch” and “somewhere it was a political fight or contest”.
“Ramnath Kovind is an RSS leader. It means he comes from a political ideology. Therefore it is a political fight”, Yechuri said.
Reacting to NDA’s strategy, Ghulam Nabi Azad said “So far as the National Democratic Alliance nominee is concerned, the Congress has nothing to say on the merits or demerits. All the opposition parties had collectively decided on evolving a consensus on the Presidential candidate when leaders of 18 parties met,”
“We had full hope that before announcing they will discuss some names. They did inform us but only after they had decided on the name,” he said and termed the outreach by the BJP as a “formality”.
Mayawati, in her remarks to the media, said: “We are not against Kovind’s nomination… As he is a Dalit, we can’t oppose his name, but only if the united opposition doesn’t announce a popular Dalit name.”