Contest on cards as Oppn to field prez candidate

Azad rushes to Patna to meet Nitish

Contest on cards as Oppn to field prez candidate
The Congress will sit down with other Opposition parties on Thursday to decide on a joint candidate to contest against BJP nominee Ram Nath Kovind in the July 17 Presidential election.

To ace the Dalit card played by the BJP, a section of the Opposition feels that they should also field a Dalit candidate. But parties like the JD(U), SP and the BSP are likely to express their reservations about opposing Kovind, a Dalit from Uttar Pradesh, and fielding another candidate from the deprived sections “just for the sake of contesting”.

Senior Congress leader Ghulam Nabi Azad rushed to Patna to attend ‘iftar’ and use the occasion to meet Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar, who has indicated his support for Kovind. Azad is expected to convince Nitish to field a joint Opposition candidate.

A source said, from the Congress, former Speaker Meira Kumar and former home minister Sushil Kumar Shinde’s names are doing the rounds. But it is to be seen whether non-Congress parties would be keen on supporting them.

CPI national secretary D Raja, eminent agriculturalist M S Swaminathan, nuclear scientist Anil Kakodkar and B R Ambedkar’s grandson Prakash are also being talked about.

However, the Opposition’s hopes on the Shiv Sena to break ranks with the BJP were dashed when the party announced its support to Kovind. Some leaders were hoping to rope in the Sena using Shinde or Prakash’s candidature as both are from Maharashtra.

Another source said with the Left parties’ choice, Gopalkrishna Gandhi, out of the reckoning, they may be open to names suggested by the Congress. A senior CPI leader said the Congress should take the lead now and come up with names.

A senior SP leader said that opposing a candidate from Uttar Pradesh remains a problem for them. Like the JD(U), the SP also describe Kovind as a “good man”.

The JD(U) would decide on its stand at a core committee meeting in Patna on Wednesday. A source said Nitish has already told Congress president  Sonia Gandhi, RJD chief Lalu Prasad and senior JD(U) leader Sharad Yadav about his discomfiture in opposing Kovind.

“There was not a single statement to embarrass the government...,” a senior JD(U) leader said while pointing out that former governor Buta Singh, a Congress leader, had troubled them a lot during the reign of the JD(U)-BJP alliance government in the state. He also referred to the JD(U)’s support to UPA Presidential candidate Pranab Mukherjee in 2012 when the party was in alliance with the BJP.

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