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Oppn to meet on June 22 as BJP picks Ram Nath Kovind as presidential candidate

Says ruling party did not consult them, may name own candidate on June 22.

india Updated: Jun 27, 2017 12:37 IST
Ram Nath Kovind,Presidential candidate,Bihar governor
Ram Nath Kovind is the incumbent governor of Bihar. (AP Photo)

Hours after the BJP announced Bihar governor Ram Nath Kovind as its Presidential candidate, Gopalkrishna Gandhi – seen as the Left’s choice for the top post— seemed to take himself out of contention.

While the Opposition mounted an attack on the ruling BJP, accusing it of not consulting them before nominating Kovind, Gopalkrishna Gandhi thanked “all those who wanted to see me contest the election and perchance to win it”. Talking to Hindustan Times, he said that his supporters trust had been “no less fulfilling than a realisation of their wish would have been”.

The Opposition will meet on June 22, a day before Kovind files his nomination to the Lok Sabha secretary general, to decide the next course of action.

“Congress does not want to comment on NDA’s candidate. We want to take a unanimous decision with other opposition parties. The final call will be taken on June 22,” leader of Opposition in Rajya Sabha, Ghulam Nabi Azad, said.

Although the Opposition claimed that the BJP ‘unilaterally’ took a call on Kovind’s candidature, Union minister M Venkaiah Naidu maintained that the Bihar governor was nominated after keeping in mind the suggestions of ‘some Opposition parties’.

Naidu indicated that the BJP had opted for a person with a clean image, who belonged to a weaker section of the country.

Azad, however, said the atrocities on Dalits in Saharanpur and other areas are a clear example that minorities, backwards and Dalits were not “priorities” for the BJP.

West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee suggested that foreign minister Sushma Swaraj or BJP patriarch LK Advani could have been a better Presidential candidate. “There are other big Dalit leaders in the country. Just because he (Kovind) was a leader of the BJP’s Dalit Morcha, they have nominated him,” she said and added that in order to support someone, “we must know the person”.

However, there are signs that all the opposition parties might not share the same views when it comes to Kovind’s nomination. Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) chief Mayawati said she can’t take a “negative” stand on a dalit candidate. “Our stand will be positive provided the opposition does not field any Dalit for the top post,” she said.

The Left, which has been backing Gopalkrishna Gandhi’s candidature, was in no mood to quit without a fight. “There will be a contest,” Communist Party of India (Marxist) general secretary Sitaram Yechury told Hindustan Times.

On his part, Gopalkrishna Gandhi said he hoped for “the best thing” to happen for India.

“May the one chosen by destiny to occupy the onerous office this year bring to it something of Rajen babu’s sagacity, Dr Radhakrishnan’s wisdom and Zakir sahib’s nobility, and a large measure of the alert independent-mindedness of President R Narayanan,” he said.

When asked if he is opting out of the contest, Gandhi replied, “I had never entered a contest as no name whether mine or anyone else’s had been decided upon.”

Former Lok Sabha speaker Meira Kumar is also seen as a possible Opposition Presidential candidate.

First Published: Jun 20, 2017 00:03 IST