Cracks came visible in the Opposition on the eve of its meeting of its leaders to meet on Thursday, with Congress chief Sonia Gandhi in the chair, to decide on their president candidate. Parties that form the Opposition has, however, seemed not in coherence as was earlier after BJP announced their president candidate.
Nitish Kumar Janata Dal-United JD(U) broke ranks with the Opposition by declaring support to Kovind. Soon Nitish Kumar turned volte-face, Naveen Patnaik's BJD decided to back Kovind. It is indicated that Janata Dal (S) and INLD too would go in supporting Kovind. Ahead of Thursday’s meeting, former Lok Sabha Speaker Meira Kumar emerged as the frontrunner to take on Kovind. She met with Congress president Sonia Gandhi late last evening.
“All the leaders have decided that we will support Ram Nath Kovind for the post of president. He is Bihar’s first Governor who has been nominated for this post. We are very happy with this, it is the matter of Bihar's development,” Senior JD (U) leader Ratnesh Sada said after meeting all the party leaders here.
The development comes ahead of the major Opposition meeting slated to be held on Thursday.
Earlier on 19 June, Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar said that a thorough discussion will be held on the matter within the Janata Dal (United) party. BJP president Amit Shah on Monday announced Bihar Governor Ram Nath Kovind would be the government's candidate for the country's top post.
After this announcement, Nitish had met Kovind at Raj Bhawan in Patna and extended his wishes.
Though Nitish expressed happiness that the Bihar Governor would be the NDA's candidate for the President elections, he said a detailed discussion would be held on the matter within the JD(U).
Nitish also said that “I had a word with Laluji and Sonia Gandhi, and there will be discussion on this. I have told them about my views”. JD (U) has been a part of the opposition's joint initiative on the presidential elections.
Meanwhile, the RJD leaders are not happy with the decision of the party chief, they were reported to have told that the decision to support Kovind will not affect in any way the government in Bihar or opposition unity. Ever since the BJP named Kovind, a Dalit, for President, the Congress and CPM have been trying to come up with a Dalit candidate as a counter. In fact, BSP chief Mayawati forced their hand by announcing that she will have no option but to back Kovind if the Opposition did not field a Dalit candidate.
The sudden change in the attitude of a certain oppoistion party has given to panic in which Ghulam Nabi Azad, Leader of Opposition in Rajya Sabha, was given the task to talk with leaders to attend Thursday meeting. Sources said Trinamool Congress leader Mamata Banerjee spoke to Gandhi from The Netherlands and conveyed to her that she was agreeable to Meira Kumar’s candidature. The choice for the Opposition appeared to have narrowed down to four names — Meira Kumar, Congress veteran from Maharashtra Sushil Kumar Shinde, economist and former vice chancellor of Mumbai university Bhalchandra Mungekar and B R Ambedkar’s grandson Prakash Ambedkar.
In South, ruling AIADMK announced its support to the Kovind.
The opposition is against Kovind's name being finalised for the post of president on grounds that they were not consulted prior to the announcement.
The election for the next President of India is to be held on 17 July. President Pranab Mukherjee will demit office on 24 July.