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Congress open to candidate from other parties for vice president

Party leaders will soon begin discussions with fellow opposition parties for consensus on a common candidate for the country’s second top constitutional post.

india Updated: Jul 03, 2017 19:15 IST
Aurangzeb Naqshbandi
Vice president Hamid Ansari finishes his term on August 10. Election for his position will be held on August 5.
Vice president Hamid Ansari finishes his term on August 10. Election for his position will be held on August 5. (PTI Photo)

The Congress could support a vice-presidential candidate suggested by fellow opposition parties, a move to help fix fault lines within the non-NDA camp over its nominee for the President’s post.

The main opposition party fielded former Lok Sabha speaker Meira Kumar for the July 17 presidential polls against the ruling BJP-led NDA nominee Ram Nath Kovind, who was governor of Bihar.

But the Congress couldn’t name its candidate before the BJP and the delay divided the opposition camp, with Bihar chief minister and Janata Dal (United) president Nitish Kumar supporting Kovind.

The party’s relations with Kumar worsened since, though they are part of the coalition that rules Bihar. The chief minister also accused the Congress of scuttling efforts to unite opposition parties to take on the BJP in the Assam and Uttar Pradesh state polls.

The controversy prompted the Congress to speed up the consultation process for the vice-presidential nominee. Party leaders will soon begin discussions with fellow opposition parties for consensus on a common candidate for the country’s second top constitutional post.

To ensure a strong and united non-NDA camp, a Congress strategist, who refused to be named, did not rule out the possibility of his party supporting a candidate suggested by other parties.

The strategy is viewed as a damage-control exercise over the Congress-Kumar spat.

The situation aggravated after senior Congress leader Ghulam Nabi Azad’s alleged swipe at the chief minister for not supporting Meira Kumar, who is a native of Bihar.

At an Iftar hosted by the Congress in Patna on June 21, Azad’s remarks that “people who have one principle make one decision, but those who believe in many principles make different decisions” were widely interpreted as a direct attack on the chief minister.

Kumar quoted the late Ram Manohar Lohia in his response and called the Congress “Sarkari Gandhivadi (bureaucratic Gandhian)”.

Bihar Congress leaders said in private that Azad’s statement was in “bad taste” and he should have avoided it at a time when opposition unity is imperative to take on Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the BJP.

However, they hoped Kumar’s support to Kovind would be a “one-off development” and that he will not go with the BJP again after parting ways with the party on a bitter note in 2013.

Congress leaders were relieved to see the presence of Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) chief Sharad Pawar at an event organised by the National Herald in Delhi on Saturday.

His decision to attend the midnight launch of the goods and services tax (GST) at Parliament’s Central Hall on Friday unnerved the Congress, which boycotted the function.