PrezPolls: BJP puts Oppn in a fix with Kovind candidature

The Opposition is considering a host of Dalit leaders, including B R Ambedkar’s grandson Prakash Ambedkar and former Lok Sabha Speaker Meira Kumar, as its Presidential candidate after BJP chose to field Bihar Governor Ramnath Kovind.

The candidature of Kovind, a Dalit, has also virtually binned the initial plans by the opposition to field Mahatma Gandhi’s grandson Gopalkrishna Gandhi in the fight for the top Constitutional post.

With the BJP coming up with a Dalit name, sources said, the Opposition camp had to tweak its plans. They are in consultation to prepare a short-list from Dalit and tribal communities.

Opposition leaders said the choice of Kovind is to consolidate BJP’s gains in Uttar Pradesh in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections.

Parties like JD(U) admitted that they are in a fix as the choice is a Dalit while considerations in Uttar Pradesh, where Kovind hails from, has put Samajwadi Party and BSP in quandary.

While Mulayam Singh Yadav is open to support an NDA candidate, his son and SP chief Akhilesh does not want to break ranks with Congress. For BSP, sources said, opposing a Dalit candidate from UP would be a problem for its chief Mayawati and opposition would have to take into consideration her views and field a Dalit candidate.

Congress is of the view that the Opposition could field Kumar, daughter of Dalit icon Jagjivan Ram and a Congress leader, while non-Congress parties appear not enthusiastic about a candidate from the Grand Old Party.

Ambedkar’s name is being proposed by a section of non-Congress parties as they believe that this could put Shiv Sena, which has reacted to BJP choice as “merely vote bank politics”, in a fix. One of the leaders also suggested Magsaysay award winner Beswada Wilson could be considered.

A section of the Opposition had earlier suggested that they should field a tribal candidate as such a nominee could attract tribal MPs, particularly from north-east, cutting across party lines.

Soon after the name was announced, Opposition leaders worked their phones to prepare a counter to the BJP move.

CPI(M) General Secretary Sitaram Yechury got in touch with senior opposition leaders, including Bihar Chief Minister and JD(U) chief Nitish, RJD chief Lalu Prasad and others.

Bihar Chief Minister and JD(U) chief Nitish Kumar, who expressed happiness over Kovind’s candidature, dialled Congress chief Sonia Gandhi. Sources said he has conveyed to her that his party would stand by the decision of Opposition meeting of June 22.

JD(U) sources said Kovind’s candidature has put them in a fix as he is a Maha-Dalit and there is nothing much to oppose him. They have conveyed the unease to some opposition leaders.

(An edited version appeared in Deccan Herald on Jun 20, 2017)


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