Bihar governor Ram Nath Kovind is BJP's pick for prez

Bihar governor Ram Nath Kovind is BJP's pick for prez

Bihar governor Ram Nath Kovind is BJP's pick for prez
The BJP on Monday picked up Bihar governor Ram Nath Kovind as its nominee to contest the July 17 presidential election.

The BJP parliamentary board, at its afternoon meeting which was attended by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, BJP chief Amit Shah among other senior party leaders, shortlisted Kovind, a non-Jatav Dalit from Uttar Pradesh, from a list of probables to contest for the post of President of India.

Modi's move is likely to see a split in opposition ranks, as the 71-year-old lawyer politician will be second Dalit president if he gets elected as the NDA nominee. K R Narayanan was the country's first Dalit president. The BJP's surprise decision on the candidature has caught opposition in a bind.

Party leaders said in Kovind the BJP has not only been able to convey a social message but found a non-controversial educated leader to fit into the constitutional post. In Patna, Bihar chief minister and JDU leader Nitish Kumar called on the governor and heaped praise on Kovind's "exemplary work" and "impartiality". Similarly, BSP leader Mayawati said she cannot be "negative" about a Dalit candidate put up by the BJP. Both Kumar and Mayawati, however, stressed they will take a final call on supporting a candidate after opposition parties' meeting on Thursday.

Barring Shiv Sena, there is a consensus among almost all the NDA allies on Kovind's candidature. “The BJP's candidate is merely a vote bank politics”, Shiv Sena president Udhav Thackeray said in Mumbai, making it clear his reservation over ruling party's choice.

Before Shah announced the decision at a press conference at party's Ashoka Road headquarter, Modi spoke to Congress top leaders Sonia Gandhi and Manmohan Singh to seek their support for the BJP's candidate. He also talked to NDA ally TDP's chief Chandrababu Naidu, Tamil Nadu CM E Palaniswamy and TRS boss K Chandrashekhar Rao. Naidu, Rao, BJD and YSR Congress chief Y S Jagan Mohan Reddy have announced their support for the NDA in the election.

Earlier, Shah told reporters that Kovind will file his nomination on Friday - a day before the PM begins his two-day visit to United States. The result for replacement of President Mukherjee would be declared on July 20 which is four days before his term comes to an end.

"I am sure Ram Nath Kovind will make an exceptional President & continue to be a strong voice for the poor, downtrodden & marginalised," Modi tweeted reemphasizing the party and government's commitment towards empowerment of the have-nots.
 
The Bihar governor on his part thanked "the people of Bihar for their support" in Patna and arrived in Delhi to meet Modi in the evening. Accepting his nomination, Kovind said he will reach out to his electors -- MLAs and MPs -- and all political parties to seek their "blessings" for the Presidential poll.

Prior to becoming governor in 2015, Kovind, a graduate in commerce and law, was a former president of the BJP Dalit Morcha. He had also served as party's national spokesperson, had two stints in Rajya Sabha and practiced in Delhi high court and Supreme Court in the past.

The BJP president said there has been no discussion on the names for vice president's election with the tenure of incumbent Hamid Ansari expiring on August 10.
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