Congress-led opposition names Meira Kumar as presidential nominee

Nitish's remarks came a day after 17 opposition parties led by Congress named former Lok Sabha Speaker Meira Kumar as their presidential candidate and Rashtiya Janata Dal (RJD) chief Lalu Prasad Yadav hailed her as "Bihar ki beti" as she has her roots there.

After the meeting, Lalu Prasad of the RJD said he would meet Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar and "appeal to him again to rethink" his party's decision to support the NDA nominee, which he called a "historic blunder".

Daughter of former Deputy Prime Minister and prominent Dalit leader Jagjivan Ram, Meira Kumar is a 5-time MP and was the first woman Speaker of Lok Sabha from 2009 to 2014.

With the battle lines for presidency now clearly drawn between the ruling NDA candidate Ram Nath Kovind and the opposition parties' Meira Kumar, it remains to be seen which way the Samajwadi Party will swing.

However, the decision did not go down well with some of the political parties with Congress alleging that the announcement was made without taking the grand old party into confidence while BJP's ally Shev Sena termed it a political move to lure vote bank. "Kovind, in the same press meet, opposed Dalit Status for Dalit Christians", he said.

The Opposition on Wednesday suffered a blow as the Janata Dal-United (JD-U) announced support for National Democratic Alliance candidate Kovind.

"We took the decision after discussing all the leaders of our party and will not reconsider our decision to back Kovind", he added.

"We are not personally against NDA's presidential candidate".

Meanwhile, Meira Kumar, the opposition candidate, in a statement appealed to all members of the Electoral College to vote on the basis of "cherished principles of.inclusiveness, social justice and pluralism". Earlier when he returned from Delhi on Friday he recalled that Nitish had spoken about "Sangh-mukt Bharat" and was active in uniting opposition but "don't know what is cooking up in his mind". Her father was a freedom fighter. Nitish Kumar who had virtually left the Opposition in the lurch, had justified his support for Kovind by saying that he had to support the Bihar Governor who had been supportive of his government through out his tenure. "The presidential election is not a walkover match", he said, in a veiled attack on Nitish. We have an ideological fight with the BJP.

Her party colleague, senior Congress leader Ghulam Nabi Azad, said Kumar had been “selected unanimously”. While the JD (U) deserted the Opposition camp, RLD's Ajit Singh, who was not present at the last meeting, attended the Thursday meeting. Meira Kumar has worked in various Indian missions across the world as an IFS officer. Already Kerala unit of JD (U), who have lone MLA, has announced that they will not support Nitish Kumar's view.

  • Carolyn Briggs