Unfazed by JD-U’s decision to back NDA’s Presidential candidate Ram Nath Kovind, major opposition parties will meet here on Thursday amid indications that former Lok Sabha Speaker Meira Kumar could be their nominee for the presidential election. Meira Kumar met Congress President Sonia Gandhi at her residence on Wednesday. Though there was no official word about the meeting, it is widely believed that Meira Kumar could be the opposition’s choice against Kovind. Like Kovind, Meira Kumar belongs to the Dalit community. She was the first woman speaker of Lok Sabha and also has been a Union Minister.
Ahead of meeting of opposition parties, Communist Party of India leader D. Raja said that JD-U was one of the opposition parties which had come together to field a common candidate in the presidential polls and its parting ways will not have any bearing on the stance of other parties. “It is one party. We are 17 parties who came together on the issue. (Bihar Chief Minister) Nitish Kumar has taken such a position, it is for him. It does not mean all others follow Nitish Kumar,” Raja told IANS.
Gandhi had taken the initiative to talk to opposition parties to evolve a consensus candidate in the presidential election. Nitish Kumar was among the leaders who met her and JD-U leaders took part in all meetings of the grouping. JD-U leader Sharad Yadav was also a member of the sub-committee formed by opposition parties to decide the presidential candidate.
The Left parties are keen to put up a candidate against Kovind in what they call an “ideological battle”. Communist Party of India-Marxist General Secretary Sitaram Yechury said on Wednesday that there would be a “strong candidate” against Kovind.
“The question is of a political battle — whether the basics of our Constitution would be protected or RSS would convert the country into a Hindu Rashtra (nation),” Yechury said. It remains to be seen if BSP, which has also said that it cannot oppose a Dalit candidate unless the opposition has a more popular Dalit nominee, attends the opposition meeting.
For the record, the Congress said the question whether they would be putting up a candidate against Kovind will be known only after Thursday’s meeting. Samajwadi Party President Akhilesh Yadav, whose father Mulayam Singh Yadav is toeing a different line, said that his party would go with the opposition led by Congress.
“There should be no talk about whether a Dalit should be there (be a President)… caste or religion. Whoever would be the protector of the Constitution should be above caste and religion,” he said adding that his party would attend the opposition’s meeting on Thursday. The other name doing the rounds as possible opposition candidates is of former Maharashtra Chief Minister Sushil Kumar Shinde, who also belong to the Dalit community.