Who will take on Kovind? Oppn struggles for a name as BJP gathers more support
A day after they were pushed on the backfoot after announcement of Ram Nath Kovind as NDA’s Presidential candidate, the Opposition parties seem to be still in a fix. Barring the Left which seems to be keen on fielding a candidate, others in the are keeping their cards close to their chest. The Congress, which is the largest party in the Opposition is trying to reach out to others to build some kind of a consensus before the crucial 22 June meeting.
“It is a question of India and its future. The president is the custodian of the constitution, chief of the armed forces and head of the Indian state…The contest of the President’s poll has become a battle of ideologies," D Raja of the CPI reportedly said.
However, some of the names doing the rounds to take on Kovind as the Opposition's candidate include former Lok Sabha Speaker Meira Kumar, former home minister Sushil Kumar Shinde and Bharipa Bahujan Mahasangh leader Prakash Ambedkar. Like Kovind they, too, come from the Dalit community.
Congress had earlier complained how the BJP's efforts at reaching out to the Opposition were a farce and that it announced Kovind’s name without any discussion..
Amidst reports that Nitish Kumar, who shares a good rapport with Kovind, who had been the Governor of Bihar, and may decide to support him, Congress General Secretary Ghulam Nabi Azad rushed to Patna to talk to both Kumar and RJD chief Lalu Yadav.
Although, a JD (U) MP Catch spoke to said that Nitish supporting Kovind is not a foregone conclusion as was being made out to be in the media reports. A crucial JD(U) meeting is will be held on June 21, to deliberate on the matter, the MP said. “Nitish may have a good personal relationship but that cannot be the only reason for JD(U) supporting Kovind. He will take the decision keeping in mind other factors as well,” the JD (U) leader said.
Meanwhile in UP, where Samajwadi Party patriarch Mulayam Singh Yadav has announced his support for Kovind, a SP leader says party chief is likely to go with the Opposition consensus and that Mulayam’s decision will have no bearing on how rest of the SP sees Kovind’s candidature.
BSP’s Mayawati, meanwhile, had already given out a statement suggesting how because Kovind is a Dalit, the party is positive about seeing him in the Rashtrapati Bhawan, unless the Opposition were to suggest another popular Dalit name.
The SP leader, however, says, with BSP leader battling a host of corruption cases, there is a big chance that she might support Kovind.
Meanwhile, Naveen Patnaik of the BJD and Telengana Chief Minister K Chandrashekar Rao of the TRS have already announced their support for Kovind’s candidature. After playing hardball for some time, BJP ally Shiv Sena also announced its decision to back Kovind on Tuesday.
This would leave little space for the Opposition to put up a serious fight. With more than 60% of the electoral college now in NDA’s kitty, the Opposition candidate will only contest to lose. That may explain the reluctance of some political parties who do not seem to have a stomach for fighting this battle.