JD(U) may break ranks with Opposition on Prez polls

Nitish Kumar-led JD(U) is likely break ranks with the Opposition over Presidential polls to support NDA nominee Ram Nath Kovind, a “Maha Dalit” who has not troubled the Bihar government as Governor.

If JD(U) has its compulsions, Uttar Pradesh-based parties Samajwadi Party and BSP are also in a dilemma over Kovind’s candidature as they do not want to be seen as opposing someone from the state who also belongs to the Dalit community.

Kumar had on Monday itself, soon after BJP announced Kovind’s candidature, dialled alliance partners Congress chief Sonia Gandhi and RJD chief Lalu Prasad to express his views on the NDA choice.

A formal decision on JD(U) stand would be taken on Wednesday when the party’s Core Committee meets in Patna but sources indicated that Kumar’s conversation with Gandhi and Prasad would set the tone. Kumar has also spoken to senior party leader Sharad Yadav, who was considered to be an Opposition candidate for President’s post.

“We are meeting on Wednesday. A decision would be taken on the issue then only. We are part of Opposition and continue to be part of it irrespective of the decision on Presidential polls,” a senior JD(U) leader said.

“Nothing much should be read as far as opposition unity is considered. We had supported Pranab Mukherjee in 2012 when we were in NDA,” he said.

Some of the Opposition parties are also against the move to pit a Dalit against Dalit and the idea of “contest just for the sake of contest”.

Sources said Kumar informed the alliance leaders that his party could not oppose a “Maha Dalit” and he had good equations with Kovind as Bihar Governor.

Kumar also does not consider Kovind as a “hardcore RSS man” who had not not troubled his government in the past three years or there were any misconduct” or “misuse of office” by him compared to the actions of other BJP-appointed Governors.

“There was not a single statement to embarrass the government, there was no ideological inflamation,” a senior JD(U) leader said while pointing out that former Governor Buta Singh, a Congress leader, had troubled them a lot when JD(U) was in power with BJP.

“He may be RSS but he is not like Praveen Togadia or Uma Bharti or Ashok Singhal,” he said but hastened to add that their stand on Presidential poll, if it they go the NDA way, would not affect Opposition unity.

(An edited version appeared in Deccan Herald on Jun 21, 2017)

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