Congress-Led Opposition Fields Meira Kumar as Presidential Nominee

The decision to support the former Lok Sabha Speaker was taken in a meeting of 17 opposition parties at the Parliament Library today.

Meira Kumar is a five-time Lok Sabha MP and served as Speaker between 2009 and 2014. Credit: Wikimedia

Meira Kumar is a five-time Lok Sabha MP and served as Speaker between 2009 and 2014. Credit: Wikimedia

New Delhi: On behalf of opposition parties, Congress president Sonia Gandhi, on Thursday, announced former Lok Sabha speaker Meira Kumar as their presidential candidate against NDA’s Ram Nath Kovind.

Kumar, born in Bihar’s Arrah district, is a five-time Member of Parliament and served as the first woman speaker of Lok Sabha from 2009 to 2014. She is also a lawyer and a former diplomat.

The decision was taken in a meeting of the opposition which was attended by leaders of 17 parties. JD(U), which had decided to back BJP’s presidential nominee Ram Nath Kovind, skipped today’s meeting, while RLD chief Ajit Singh was present.

The Congress, on Monday, had refused to comment on the NDA’s move to name Dalit leader and Bihar governor Kovind as its candidate for the upcoming Presidential polls, stating that they would take the final decision at the meeting of all the opposition parties. The meeting, which began at the Parliament House Library today afternoon, was attended by Sonia Gandhi, former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, senior leaders Ghulam Nabi Azad, Mallikarjun Kharge and Ahmed Patel. Left leaders Sitaram Yechury and D. Raja, DMK’s Kanimozhi and National Conference’s Omar Abdullah also attended the meeting. CPI(M) general secretary Sitaram Yechury said Kumar was the unanimous choice of all the 17 parties and that other parties would also be urged to support her and senior CPI leader D. Raja.

RJD chief Lalu Prasad Yadav said when the opposition parties had first met, JD(U) had claimed that it would stand by the decision taken by all the political parties collectively but it later reneged on the promise.

While the JD(U) had a change of heart and decided to support Kovind, Yadav said the RJD would support Kumar as it believes in politics of ideology.

When asked if this parting of ways between the JD(U) and the RJD would impact their coalition government in Bihar, he replied in the negative.

Nationalist Congress Party founder and leader Sharad Pawar, Rashtriya Lok Dal leader Ajit Singh, former Union minister M.K. Kanimozhi of Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam, former Jammu and Kashmir chief minister and National Conference leader Omar Abdullah also attended the meeting.

BSP represented by Satish Mishra

The Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) was represented by Satish Mishra. BSP chief Mayawati had earlier declared that she would not like to block Kovind’s candidature. “The BSP’s stand cannot be negative towards a Dalit nominee for the post of President. Our stand will be positive provided the opposition does not field any Dalit for the top post,” she had said.

Mayawati said at a press conference this evening, “I had initially said Kovind was connected to RSS and BJP ideologies. I had also said that a non-Dalit would’ve been a better NDA candidate. After the BJP and NDA’s one-sided decision, the opposition parties called for a meeting, Today, UPA and others have unaniomously chose Meira Kumar who comes from a Dalit background.”

TMC, SP also stand with the opposition

Trinamool Congress was represented by Derek O’Brien while the Samajwadi Party (SP) was represented by Ramgopal Yadav, even though SP chief Mulayam Singh Yadav had earlier declared his support for Kovind.

The other parties which attended the opposition meet included Janata Dal (Secular), Jharkhand Mukti Morcha, Revolutionary Socialist Party, Kerala Congress, Indian Union Muslim League and the All India United Democratic Front of Assam.

Congress said they would once again reach out to the remaining opposition parties to seek their support.  “There could not have been a better candidate than Meira Kumar for the post of President,” leader of the opposition in the Rajya Sabha Ghulam Nabi Azad said after the meeting.

Meira Kumar is the daughter of former deputy prime minister Babu Jagjivan Ram who is known for working for the oppressed and the downtrodden.

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