Presidential election: Pawar relents, supports Meira

NCP chief bats for Shinde; Cong stands firm

Presidential election: Pawar relents, supports Meira

Last-minute parleys saw the Opposition finally settle for former Lok Sabha Speaker Meira Kumar as their candidate in the Presidential election.

This was after the Left parties and Nationalist Congress Party leader Sharad Pawar shed their reluctance in accepting the Congress’ decision in her favour.

A day earlier, Congress chief Sonia Gandhi had managed to persuade Meira Kumar for a battle that is already seen loaded in the NDA's favour because of numbers in the electoral college, which consists of all MPs and MLAs all over the country. Pawar had to be “persuaded” by senior Congress leaders Ahmed Patel and Ghulam Nabi Azad that shewas the best bet against NDA nominee Ram Nath Kovind.

The NCP leader was said to be more in favour of former Union home minister Sushil Kumar Shinde and Rajya

Sabha MP Bhalchandra Mungekar, both Dalits from Maharashtra. Through the day, there was anxiety that Pawar could go the way of Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar, who decided to back Kovind.
But CPM General Secretary Sitaram Yechury too stepped in to persuade Pawar in favour of Meira.

In fact, Yechury had initially put forward the names of Gopalkrishna Gandhi, grandson of Mahatma Gandhi, and Prakash Ambedkar, the grandson of B R Ambedkar.

Finally, the move to project Kumar, a Dalit, crystalised because of the larger objective of  salvaging the unity among the parties who are opposed to the BJP.

No one but a Dalit

The DMK and other parties were unwilling to back any one other than a dalit candidate. These parties felt that the big jolt delivered by JD(U) chief and Bihar CM Nitish Kumar, who decided to back Kovind, a mahadalit, had to be "minimised" by picking another dalit leader as they could not be seen as opposing Kovind.

Bihar’s ‘beti’

The choice of Meira Kumar got further boost as Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) chief Lalu Prasad called her the "daughter of Bihar." She is the daughter of the late dalit leader Jagjivan Ram.

By choosing Meira Kumar, the UPA leaders believed that pressure would now come upon Nitish Kumar as she also hails from Bihar. He will have to rethink on backing Kovind, who is essentially the choice of the BJP. In fact, soon after Congress chief Sonia Gandhi announced Kumar's name, Lalu said he would again appeal to the Bihar CM to rethink his decision on supporting Kovind.

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