Presidential election 2017: After Bihar Chief Minister and JD(U) chief Nitish Kumar surprised the Opposition by announcing support for NDA pick Ram Nath Kovind, NCP leader supremo Sharad Pawar is learnt to have kept them under suspense hours before parties were to meet on Thursday, for the selection of their candidate, an Indian Express report said. As per it, Pawar was reluctant to even attend meeting of Opposition parties, leading to fears fears that he would throw a wrench in their efforts for unity. The former Maharashtra chief minister is learnt to have told leaders of Opposition parties that he was in talks with the Centre on the issue of farmers’ protest in the state, and urged them to reshedule the meeting. After this Congress leaders Ghulam Nabi Azad and Ahmed Patel rushed to meet Pawar at his residence. They also called CPM general secretary Sitaram Yechury, requesting him to persuade Pawar.
He was finally convinced after the Opposition leaders told them that the Opposition candidate would be announced on Friday. At the meeting, after he requested that the announcement be postponed by a day, other Opposition leaders read this as a ploy to buy time. Even Nitish Kumar’s decision to support NDA nominee Ram Nath Kovind had surprised several Opposition leaders as till June 3 that he is ready to back Gopalkrishna Gandhi’s candidature when they met in Chennai to mark DMK patriarch M Karunanidhi’s birthday. The Opposition is learnt to be divided on whether Nitish Kumar would have a different stand had they announced a joint candidate first.
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Some Opposition leaders are also blaming Congress for delaying the decision. CPI general secretary S Sudhakar Reddy is learned to have said during the meeting that the Opposition should have met earlier and select a candidate. “The Congress underestimated the manipulative capacity of BJP,” a senior opposition leader was quoted as saying by the paper.