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Posted at: Jun 20, 2017, 2:12 AM; last updated: Jun 20, 2017, 12:51 PM (IST)

BJP picks Kovind for President

Bihar Governor headed party’s Dalit Morcha from 1998-2002
BJP picks  Kovind for President
Bihar Governor Ram Nath Kovind. PTI

Vibha Sharma

Tribune News Service

New Delhi, June 19

Putting to rest all speculation, the BJP today announced Dalit leader and Bihar Governor Ram Nath Kovind  as the NDA nominee for the coming presidential poll. Briefing mediapersons after a parliamentary board meeting this afternoon, party chief Amit Shah said: “Ram Nath Kovind has always fought for the betterment of Dalits and other backward castes.” 

Edit: To Rashtrapati Bhavan

Seeking support for Kovind, “a Dalit who has struggled in life to reach the position he is in today”, Shah said his name had been discussed with all NDA allies and Opposition leaders. PM Narendra Modi tweeted: “I am sure Shri Ram Nath Kovind will make an exceptional President and continue to be a strong voice for the poor, downtrodden and marginalised... A farmer’s son, he comes from a humble background. He devoted his life to public service and worked for the poor and marginalised.” 

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Observers are calling it a BJP masterstroke. If the Opposition now fields another Dalit (such as former Lok Sabha Speaker Meira Kumar), it would be perceived as an afterthought. Ram Vilas Paswan (LJP) has already announced that those opposing Kovind’s name would be seen as “Dalit-virodhi”.

Kovind, 71, is likely to file his nomination papers on June 23 before the PM leaves for his foreign trip. Playing on his Dalit credentials, Shah hoped the NDA nominee would be unanimously chosen as President. He said the BJP had held talks with Congress president Sonia Gandhi, former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and other senior leaders in this regard.

The BJP has the requisite numbers and support to get Kovind elected. Among the Opposition parties, the TRS, the DMK, BJD, the YSR (Cong) and both factions of the AIADMK have expressed support for Kovind's candidature. Most NDA allies — the LJP, RLSP, TDP, RPI and the Akalis — too are fine with the BJP decision. But the Shiv Sena seems to be acting tough. However, it is expected to eventually fall in line.

The announcement of Kovind’s name stumped the media as well as the Opposition. While several names were doing the rounds, Kovind was nowhere on the radar. The BJP maintained utmost secrecy. Several members of its parliamentary board were still inside the party headquarters when Shah made the announcement to the media.


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