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President elections: Opposition pits Dalit face Meira Kumar against NDA's Ram Nath Kovind

Kumar had yesterday met Sonia Gandhi along with other senior party leaders, fuelling speculation that the party was willing to support her candidature.
India TV Politics Desk New Delhi June 22, 2017 18:29 IST
India TV Politics Desk

The opposition parties today declared former Lok Sabha speaker Meira Kumar as the presidential nominee. The decision was taken during a crucial meeting of opposition parties here to decide on a joint strategy for the presidential election.

"Meira Kumar has been unanimously chosen as Opposition's presidential candidate by 17 political parties," senior Congress leader Ghulam Nabi Azad told reporters here. 

Kumar, 72, is a dalit and hails from Bihar's Sasaram. Daughter of former deputy Prime Minister Jagjivan Ram, she was elected unopposed as the first woman Speaker of Lok Sabha and served from 2009 to 2014. A lawyer and a former diplomat, she had served as a Cabinet Minister in the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment of Manmohan Singh's Congress led Government (2004–2009).

"We appeal to all other opposition parties to support us," Congress president Sonia Gandhi said.

Meanwhile, Mayawati's BSP has said that it will support Kumar's canditature. 

"BSP Chief Mayawati gave her consent for the name which came in the opposition meet," senior BSP leader Satish Mishra said.

Today's meeting was attended by leaders of 17 parties. Prominent among those who attended the meeting held in the Parliament House Library were Congress president Sonia Gandhi, former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and senior Congress leaders Ghulam Nabi Azad, Mallikarjun Kharge and Ahmed Patel, besides NCP's Sharad Pawar and RJD's Lalu Prasad. Left leaders Sitaram Yechury and D Raja, DMK's Kanimozhi and National Conference's Omar Abdullah also attended the meeting. 

Though Trinamool Congress' Mamata Banerjee, BSP's Mayawati and SP's Akhilesh Yadav, who were present at the last opposition meeting held on May 26, were missing, their representatives were there. While Derek O' Brien represented the Trinamool, the SP sent Ramgopal Yadav and the BSP Satish Mishra. Other parties represented at the meeting included JD-S, RSP, JMM, Kerala Congress, IUML and the AIUDF of Assam. 

JD-U, which has decided to back BJP's presidential nominee Ram Nath Kovind, skipped today's meeting. But RLD chief Ajit Singh attended, making up the numbers. Most of these leaders were present during the May 26 luncheon meeting hosted by Sonia Gandhi at the same venue. 

Cracks had appeared in the opposition camp after the JD-U's surprise decision yesterday, as its chief Nitish Kumar was the one who had initiated the process for a joint opposition strategy on the issue. 

The names of former speaker Meira Kumar and Prakash Ambedkar, grandson of the principal architect of the Constitution, BR Ambedkar, were discussed during today’s meet. The Left parties were keen to project Gopalkrishna Gandhi and Prakash Ambedkar, but other parties, including the Congress, put their weight behind Kumar. 

Kumar had yesterday met Sonia Gandhi along with other senior party leaders, fuelling speculation that the party was willing to support her candidature.