Meira Kumar is Opposition's prez candidate

Meira Kumar is Opposition's prez candidate

Terms contest as battle of ideology

Meira Kumar is Opposition's prez candidate
Former Lok Sabha Speaker Meira Kumar was on Thursday chosen as the joint Opposition candidate to take on BJP nominee Ram Nath Kovind in the July 17 Presidential election.

The Opposition described the upcoming Presidential election as a “battle of ideology and not numbers”. Meira was chosen at an hour-long meeting of 17 Opposition parties chaired by Congress president Sonia Gandhi, but not before day-long parleys were held between the  leaders.

NCP chief Sharad Pawar wanted the announcement to be delayed by a day. However, all other parties suggested that the name should be announced on Thursday, keeping in mind the JD(U)’s decision on Wednesday to support Kovind.

The JD(U) did not attend Thursday’s meeting. The RLD, which did not attend the May 26 luncheon hosted by Sonia, came on board in Thursday's meeting.“Seventeen Opposition parties have decided to field Meira Kumar,” said Sonia, who was flanked by several Opposition leaders.

“We do hope that other parties also join us,” she said when asked about the JD(U)’s support. Sonia also said that she was not upset with anybody.

Asked whether they would appeal to JD(U) chief Nitish Kumar to reconsider his decision, CPM general secretary Sitaram Yechury said, “We are all appealing to everybody”. After the announcement, Meira said, “The unity of the Opposition represents the coming together of forces which have a strong ideological basis. I am going to contest as their candidate on the basis of this strong ideological base.”

Opposition leaders believe that Meira’s nomination could put Nitish in discomfiture as she is from Bihar and belongs to the Mahadalit community. Nitish had earlier suggested that he could not oppose Kovind's nomination as he was a Mahadalit who served as the governor of Bihar.

While RJD president Lalu Prasad flew to Delhi from Ranchi after a court appearance, BSP supremo Mayawati, SP chief Akhilesh Yadav and JD(S) national president H D Deve Gowda sent their representatives.

A source said after Sonia’s introductory remarks, Pawar briefed the gathering about the developments and that three names, Sushil Kumar Shinde, Bhalchandra Mungekar and Meira Kumar, have come up for final deliberations.

Pawar said he preferred Shinde or Mungekar, but was not averse to Meira. He again suggested that the announcement should be delayed.

After Pawar, Lalu was the first to speak, but he insisted that a decision has to be taken then and there. “If you delay it, there are chances that more people could leave,” Lalu told the meeting without referring to the JD(U) – his alliance partner, along with the Congress, in Bihar.

Yechury also referred to the JD(U)’s exit and insisted that a decision should be taken. He told the meeting about their preference for Gopalkrishna Gandhi. But Gopalkrishna had suggested that with Kovind’s nomination, the Opposition should tweak its strategy.

TMC’s Derek O’Brien, BSP’s Satish Chandra Mishra, SP’s Ramgopal Yadav, JD(S)’s Danish Ali and DMK’s Kanimozhi preferred an early decision. Mishra said they were open to the three names, but party chief Mayawati’s preference would be Meira.
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