More in Opposition ask: How can we oppose a Dalit?

While the Congress is keen on putting up a candidate to force a contest, it is also eager to avert a division in the Opposition ranks which could be seen as its failure.

Written by Manoj C G , Anand Mishra | New Delhi | Updated: June 21, 2017 5:08 am
Ram Nath Kovind, Dalit President, Congress, Nitish Kumar Kovind in New Delhi, Tuesday. (Express Photo/Praveen Khanna)

A day after the BJP sprang a surprise by naming Bihar Governor Ram Nath Kovind, a Dalit, as the NDA’s presidential choice, Opposition parties struggled to remain united and find a Dalit name, “who has both intellectual heft and political acceptance” to counter the ruling coalition’s move.

A desperate Congress also moved to persuade Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar who stunned the Opposition Monday by indicating his reluctance to stand in the way of Kovind’s elevation to the high office. The Congress rushed Leader of Opposition in Rajya Sabha Ghulam Nabi Azad to Patna for a possible meeting with Kumar.

Sources said Kumar conveyed to Congress president Sonia Gandhi, CPM’s Sitaram Yechury and RJD chief Lalu Prasad that he had “good personal equations” with Kovind. Ahmed Patel, political secretary to the Congress president, also spoke to Kumar.

Both JD(U) and NCP have called party meetings Wednesday to discuss their next course of action. The JD(U) core committee will meet in Patna while the NCP meeting will be held in New Delhi. A SP leader told an Opposition leader that his party was in “double mind”. DMK’s Kanimozhi, sources said, flagged to JD(U) leader K C Tyagi the “difficulty” in opposing the Dalit candidate fielded by the NDA.

Asked about the JD(U)’s position on the issue, Tyagi said, “Even after June 22 (when Opposition parties meet to take a decision on fielding a common nominee), we will still remain with the Opposition but we may differ on some issue. We are a pioneer of Opposition unity and will remain part of Opposition unity. Not much should be read into this matter.”

He said Nitish Kumar had backed Pranab Mukherjee’s candidature in 2012 even when he was part of the NDA and the BJP was uncomfortable with that decision. He recalled that leaders like Atal Bihari Vajpayee, L K Advani and Swatantra Party leader Minoo Masani had backed the candidature of veteran Communist leader Hiren Mukerjee in the 1982 presidential poll, though the nomination was rejected due to technical reasons.

On Kovind’s RSS background, Tyagi said that “though from RSS, he is not hardcore RSS” and maintained that there was a difference.

BSP chief Mayawati, meanwhile, too told Yechury that she will have no option but back Kovind if the Opposition does not put up a Dalit candidate. Through the day, Opposition leaders including Yechury engaged in confabulations, but there was not much forward movement.

Sources said SP’s Akhilesh Yadav has told Opposition leaders that he will back the Opposition but father Mulayam Singh could chart a different course. SP leader Naresh Agrawal, meanwhile, spoke to Tyagi. “We are ourselves confused,” an SP leader told The Indian Express when he was asked about its next course of action.

Some Opposition leaders have proposed that a Dalit from Maharashtra should be fielded as the Opposition candidate given the fact that the Shiv Sena, a constituent of the NDA, has not come out in support of Kovind. The Opposition, according to sources, has expanded the search for a credible Dalit face. Sources said apart from former Lok Sabha Speaker Meira Kumar, former Union Minister Sushil Kumar Shinde and Babasaheb Ambedkar’s grandson Prakash Ambedkar, some other names are also now on the table.

These include that of economist and former vice chancellor of Mumbai University Bhalchandra Mungekar and former chairman of the UGC and the ICSSR, Professor Sukhadeo Thorat. Activist Paul Divakar, general secretary of National Campaign on Dalit Human Rights, is another name being tossed up. The name of senior CPI leader D Raja too has been suggested by some leaders.

While the Congress is keen on putting up a candidate to force a contest, it is also eager to avert a division in the Opposition ranks which could be seen as its failure. The Left and some other parties, sources said, are already upset that the Congress did not push the rest of the parties to announce a candidate before the BJP did, denying the Opposition an opportunity to set the narrative.

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  1. R
    Raj
    Jun 22, 2017 at 5:50 am
    Yogi will have to send a bar of soap, before Gobind can visit him?
    Reply
    1. K
      K.S.Subramanian
      Jun 22, 2017 at 5:09 am
      God has created everything keeping in mind the quality and utility of his products and not caste. For Heaven's sake (if you prefer Hell's sake) do not utter the word Dalit any more in India. The caste system is interchangeable according to one's action i.e. a Brahmin can become worse than a Dalitby his action and vice versa.
      Reply
      1. G
        George Cruz
        Jun 21, 2017 at 8:14 pm
        Except the communal congress party and their blind supporters like the converted Christians and the brainwashed Muslims.
        Reply
        1. D
          Dr Gurunath V Joshi
          Jun 21, 2017 at 8:13 pm
          No experience ed bowlers are there in Indian politics today who can bowl googli to Modi and Amit sha duo today Even if some bowls even nasty balls they are quite expert and crafty to hit them to fences or viewers stands
          Reply
          1. S
            Sharat
            Jun 21, 2017 at 4:33 pm
            Its really sad that we still look at the caste of the people before any merit goes to the person. Are we saying we have a Dalit nominated for presidential election or Ram Nath Kovind is nomination for Presidential election. its high time we change our outlook.
            Reply
            1. E
              Eknath Meshram
              Jun 21, 2017 at 3:10 pm
              THOUGH THE DALITS ARE MORE QUALIFIED AND COMPETENT, THEY DO NOT GET CHANCE OR OPPORTUNITY, AS A MATTER OF FACT THEY ARE NOT GIVEN CHANCE AND OPPORTUNITY TO PROOVE THEMSELVES. MR, RAMNATH KOVIND IS NOT AN ORDINARY SCAVANGER DALIT, HE IS ONE OF THE MOST QUALIFIED AND COMPETENT DALITS AND NEED NOT BE CONSIDERED AS RESERVED CANDIDATE FOR THE POST OF PRESIDENT OF INDIA.HE MAY NOT BE RUBBERSTAMP LIKE MR. K.R. NARAYANAN WAS NOT A RUBBERSTAMP PRESIDENT. LET US HOPE FOR THE BEST.
              Reply
              1. K
                Kalhan Sanyal
                Jun 21, 2017 at 12:55 pm
                I support NDA candidate . For He is an honest candidate to the core and less political . Good person in Jurisprudence. In this chance I want to reach his Prudence as follows . 1. Uddharedatma Atmanam . Bhagbat Gita . Recovery yourself by Yourself . 2. Corruption starts from me , Corruption ends into me . Kalhan Sanyal. 3. Character is the only tool , only means , only aim in living a life .Kalhan Sanyal. 4. Character comes only from winning over worldly temptations . Kalhan Sanyal. 5. Service to Man is Service to God . Swami Vivekananda. Let kindly the honourable ensuing President prefer to propagate the above Wisdom to the youth of the world first with our own very noble country . No one is born as backward class all are in the core God . That is the ideal of India . Kalhan Sanyal 21. 6. 2017 International Yoga Divas that unites us to the tune of an Enlightened Global Citizen .
                Reply
                1. S
                  Santano Fernandes
                  Jun 21, 2017 at 12:35 pm
                  if a Dalit is a super power like US then why Jitha Ram Manjhi did not last as a Bihar Chief Minister and thrown away by Nitish, the opposition please answer ...
                  Reply
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