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Posted at: Jun 19, 2017, 4:21 PM; last updated: Jun 19, 2017, 9:34 PM (IST)

Congress accuses BJP of unilaterally picking presidential nominee

Opposition to meet on June 22
Congress accuses BJP of unilaterally picking presidential nominee
The BJP did not inform the Oppn before making the announcement, says Ghulam Nabi Azad
New Delhi, June 19

The Bharatiya Janata Party’s choice of presidential candidate — Bihar Governor Ram Nath Kovind — has evoked mixed reactions from the Opposition, with parties like the Congress accusing it of making a unilateral announcement.

The Congress, one of the several Opposition parties with which the BJP was holding meetings to build consensus on presidential candidate, said that the BJP did not inform them before making the announcement, but added that the party had nothing to say at the moment.

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"When (Home Minister) Rajnath Singh and (Information and Broadcasting Minister M.) Venkaiah Naidu met (Congress president) Sonia Gandhi, we had expected some names from them for discussion. But they gave no names. We had full hope that before making the announcement, they would discuss some names," the Leader of Opposition in the Rajya Sabha, Ghulam Nabi Azad, said.

"Yes, they did inform us but only after they had decided on the name." He said the meetings with opposition parties was a formality.

"The only thing I would like to say is that we expected that before taking the final decision on a candidate, they will come back to us and other opposition parties. The Opposition parties were given to understand that they will be taken into confidence. It is the BJP's sweet will and we cannot help that.”

The Communist Party of India said they were unhappy with the choice and urged the Opposition to prop up their own candidate.

"He is also from RSS ranks. He was president of Dalit BJP Morcha...Sangh Pariwar organisation. Definitely, we will put up a candidate. Anybody from RSS...we will fight," CPI General Secretary Suravaram Sudhakar Reddy said.

Sitaram Yechury of the CPI-M struck a different note. "Kovindji was the chief of the RSS Dalit branch. So somewhere it is a political fight or a contest. We are not commenting or giving any character certificate to anyone." He said the BJP leaders had promised to seek the opposition' consent on the Presidential candidate which did not happen.The Shiv Sena, another ally of the BJP, said it would convene a meeting of party leaders to decide on supporting the NDA’s choice for President.

Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar, who met Governor Kovind soon after the announcement, said: "I am personally glad he is the presidential candidate."  As to whether the JD-U will back his candidature, Nitish Kumar said: "It is difficult to say at this point of time. I had talks with (RJD chief) Lalu Prasad and (Congress President) Sonia Gandhi. We will discuss later and decide." 

Trinamool Congress chief Mamata Banerjee said that Kovind was chosen because he was the leader of BJP’s Dalit Morcha and that there were "bigger Dalit leaders" in India.

"There are other big Dalit leaders in India. Just because he was the leader of Dalit Morcha of the BJP, the NDA has made him presidential candidate,” Banerjee said.

On the other hand, Biju Janata Dal, BJP’s ally Telegu Desam Party, and archrival Telangana’s ruling Telangana Rashtra Samithi have backed the BJP’s choice.

"After discussing with senior party leaders, BJD has decided to support the candidature of Ram Nath Kovind," BJP president Naveen Patnaik, Odisha’s chief minister, said after receiving a telephone call from Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

Patnaik said Ram Nath Kovind is an eminent lawyer belonging to the scheduled caste community.

"The office of the President of India is above political consideration and Biju Janata Dal wants to keep it above the politics," he said.

Bahujan Samaj Party meanwhile extended conditional support.

“BSP's stand will be positive provided Opposition doesn't field any Dalit,” BSP chief Mayawati said.

After days of playing its cards close to its chest, BJP finally announced its choice of candidate for President. It has also been meeting Opposition parties to build consensus.

An advocate by profession, Kovind was a Rajya Sabha member for 12 years and a member of several parliamentary panels. He had practised law in both the High Court and the Supreme Court.

An unassuming man, Kovind worked through the ranks to become a national spokesperson of the BJP. He headed the BJP's Dalit wing for three years from 1999.

The Presidential election will be held on July 17. If there isn’t consensus of a candidate and if the opposition announces a rival to BJP’s choice, the election result will be announced on July 20.

Incumbent President Pranab Mukherjee’s tenure ends on July 24.  — Agencies    

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