Opposition Set to Take Call on Presidential Candidate Against BJP’s Kovind

Unwilling to support a candidate with an RSS background, the Left parties have shared their own list of candidates with Congress, and the final decision will be taken at an opposition meet on June 22.

Congress president Sonia Gandhi. Credit: PTI

Sonia Gandhi is expected to chair the opposition meeting to decide presidential candidate. Credit: PTI

New Delhi: While the Janata Dal (United) on Wednesday, June 21, decided to support the candidature of former Bihar governor Ram Nath Kovind for the post of president, the Left parties and the Congress still appear well on course to field a candidate to oppose the Dalit lawyer-politician as they see in him a man with an Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh (RSS) background.

The opposition parties believe that the manner in which the BJP kept Kovind’s name a secret till it was finally announced was against the spirit of developing a consensus on naming a presidential candidate. The parties are now learnt to be veering towards fielding a strong Dalit candidate of their own to take on BJP’s Kovind.

Even as the numbers seem to be stacking in favour of the BJP candidate, who has thus far received support from the Biju Janata Dal, Lok Janshakti Party, Shiv Sena, Telangana Rashtra Samiti, YSR Congress, Telugu Desam Party, AIADMK, the Bahujan Samaj Party and the JD(U), the Left parties are keen on putting up a fight as they do not want to support a candidate with an RSS background.

In fact, on June 19 itself, soon after Kovind’s name was announced by BJP president Amit Shah, both the CPI(M) general secretary Sitaram Yechury and CPI general secretary S. Sudhakar Reddy had declared the need for the opposition parties to oppose his candidature. That a fight is definitely on the cards became clear today when Kerala chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan said that Kovind was a “political candidate” and therefore “his candidature will be faced politically.”

Back-channel parleys ahead of opposition meet

It has been learnt that in the last two days, a lot of back-channel discussion have been held and the Left parties have even shared a list of names with the Congress on who the opposition candidate could be.

Left suggests strong Dalit names to Congress

The names of Meira Kumar, the former Lok Sabha speaker; Sushil Kumar Shinde, the former union home minister of Congress and of Prakash Yashwant Ambedkar, B.R. Ambedkar’s grandson and leader of Bharipa Bahujan Mahasangh, are learnt to be among those which have been suggested.

Somewhere the belief is that by fielding a strong Dalit candidate who has greater acceptability, the opposition would be able to put up a better fight, particularly so because in the presidential polls the parties cannot issue any whip and all the legislators and parliamentarians are free to exercise their vote as per their conscience.

Sonia Gandhi likely to chair opposition meet

Most of the 18 opposition parties, which had come together for the purpose of the presidential election, and had met on June 14, are now scheduled to meet again at the Parliament Annexe tomorrow (June 22), and this time Congress president Sonia Gandhi is also expected to attend and chair the meeting at the Parliament Library.

However, head of Congress’s communications department, Randeep Singh Surjewala, refused to confirm the deliberations between the Left parties and the Congress saying senior leader Ghulam Nabi Azad, who along with Leader of Congress in Lok Sabha Mallikarjun Kharge, is representing the party in the committee of opposition leaders, would be announcing the outcome of the meeting on Thursday.

“Every suggestion and talk of a list being circulated is only in the realm of a speculation,” he said. Senior CPI leader D. Raja also refused to confirm any such exchange of names.

Nitish Kumar’s decision hurts opposition unity

The opposition parties have, however, been left hurt by JD(U) leader Nitish Kumar’s decision to support the candidature of Kovind, with whom he shared a great personal rapport. Though Kumar’s government in Bihar is supported by Rashtriya Janata Dal and the Congress, he still chose to tread his own path even before a decision was taken on the issue.

While announcing the decision in Patna, JD(U) leader Ratnesh Sada had stated that Kovind was being supported because he was  “Bihar’s first governor who has been nominated for this post” and because Kumar had told the meeting that he was “a good man”.

Shiv Sena mellows after bravado

JD(U)’s stamp of approval for Kovind came as a shot in the arm for the BJP as only a day earlier Shiv Sena also announced its decision to support him, after having initially expressed its reservation on the issue on the ground that it had suggested the names of RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat and noted agricultural scientist M.S. Swaminathan for the post.

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  • S.N.Iyer

    It will be the height of foolhardiness to put up a candidate even a dalit when the votes are stacked against such a candidate. Nitish has had first hand working relations with Sri Kovind and he has found not to be “rabid ” RSS or BJP supporter but a good legal lawyer who will defend the Constitution. The Congress and others shouldnt be swayed by the Left position of a lame candidate. A President’s role cannot be compromised by political compulsions but should adhere to the Constitution and could be more a check than a willing servant of the Govt. Historically he has even represented the Congress in some cases;.l Instead the Congress should try and take credit for the nomination of a Dalit as their demand. BY giving support and allowing Sri Kovind to win unopposed,Congress can take credit. Also by meeting the incumbent and impressing their confidence in him for the upholding of the Constitution, you can develop some rapport for any future meetings to hear your point of view. He is the President of the country and fulfills the criteria of being a DALIT and with a legal background to uphold the Constitution. Thius is the only way one can make a “defeat”” into a victory of some value.