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Posted at: Jun 20, 2017, 2:12 AM; last updated: Jun 20, 2017, 1:13 PM (IST)

Oppn not amused, may force contest

"Names of Advani or Sushma Swaraj could have been proposed for the post. Among the Dalit leaders, too, there are better known and more competent people.—Mamata Banerjee, CM, WB

  • Kovindji was the chief of RSS’s Dalit branch. So, somewhere it is a political fight or contest. We are not commenting and giving any character certificate to anyone.—Sitaram Yechury, CPM
  • A Dalit presidential candidate has been chosen merely for vote-bank politics.—Uddhav Thackeray, Shiv Sena chief
Oppn not amused, may force contest
Ghulam Nabi Azad

Tribune News Service

New Delhi, June 19

The Opposition intends to contest the presidential election despite the BJP-led NDA springing a surprise in deciding to field Bihar Governor Ram Nath Kovind as its candidate, so it seems. Soon after the BJP made its move, Congress leader Ghulam Nabi Azad called a meeting of the Opposition parties here on Thursday. The mood is to pick a person (for the July 17 election) who can pose an effective challenge to Kovind, a Dalit.

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Opposition leaders are not amused at the BJP’s “unilateral move” to announce its candidate, especially after a panel of Union Ministers reached out to them, projecting it as a consensus-building process. “When (Home Minister) Rajnath Singh and (Information and Broadcasting Minister) M Venkaiah Naidu met (Congress president) Sonia Gandhi, we had expected some names for discussion. But they gave no names. We had all hope that before making an announcement, they would discuss some names,” Azad, the Leader of the Opposition in the Rajya Sabha, said.

Sitaram Yechury, the CPM general secretary, maintained the BJP leaders had said they would get back  after a name was finalised. “They never got back and today announced Kovind's name.”

 CPI general secretary S Sudhakar Reddy, pointing out that Kovind too was from the RSS ranks, said: “He was president of the Dalit BJP Morcha, a Sangh Parivar organisation. Definitely, we will put up a candidate. Anybody from the RSS...we will fight.” The Opposition will have to recast its strategy. Indications are it could field a Dalit to blunt the BJP move and this could put BSP chief Mayawati in a quandary. Sources in the Opposition said former Lok Sabha Speaker Meira Kumar could be a candidate. Her name had sprung up once during discussions when the Left suggested Gopal Gandhi’s candidature. 

In the changed circumstances, a formidable leader of political standing will be required to force a contest. In this whip-less election, the BJP is confident of bridging some 1.5 per cent gap in the 1,098,000 votes of the electoral college. The last date for nominations is June 28. In the event of a contest, the result will be out on July 20. The tenure of President Pranab Mukherjee ends on July 24. 

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