The Opposition has fielded Congress leader and former Lok Sabha Speaker Meira Kumar as its candidate for the Presidential polls scheduled to take place next month on July 17. Meira Kumar, who is also a Dalit, will be contesting against NDA’s nominee, former Bihar Governor and Dalit leader Ram Nath Kovind.
Late on Wednesday evening Kumar had met Sonia Gandhi along with other senior party leaders, fuelling speculation that she would be Opposition’s candidate.
Kumar’s name was decided at a crucial meeting of Opposition leaders, held on Thursday evening. 17 Opposition parties are said to have attended the meet to decipher a strategy for the upcoming polls.
“We have decided to field the name of Meira Kumar for the presidential election… We do hope that other parties also join us,” Congress president Sonia Gandhi said after the meeting.
Senior Congress leader Ghulam Nabi Azad, said Kumar was a unanimous choice.
Congress, NCP, Left front, RJD, BSP, Samajwadi Party, Trinamool Congress, DMK, JD-S, RLD, RSP, JMM, Kerala Congress, IUML, AIUDF of Assam and Omar Abdullah’s National Conference were all part of the meet.
JD(U) skipped the meeting as the party had already announced that it will back NDA’s nominee for the Presidential polls. Cracks had appeared in the opposition camp after the JD- U’s surprise decision on Wednesday, as its chief Nitish Kumar was the one who had initiated the process for a joint opposition strategy on the issue.
In the meeting NCP leader Sharad Pawar had proposed three Dalit names — Meira Kumar, former union home minister Sushilkumar Shinde and Rajya Sabha MP Bhalchandra Mungekar.
CPI-M general secretary Sitaram Yechury put forward the names of Gopalkrishna Gandhi, grandson of Mahatma Gandhi, and Prakash Ambedkar, the grandson of BR Ambedkar.
The Opposition meeting was preceded by hectic parleys between leaders of non-NDA parties since morning. The Congress has stepped up its efforts to keep the opposition united as its top brass held discussions with the leaders of a host of other parties after the JD-U’s decision.
Meira Kumar, a former diplomat and daughter of the late Dalit icon Jagjivan Ram was a Lok Sabha Speaker from 2009 and 2014.
(With inputs from PTI)