In a first sign of cracks within the Grand Alliance, the RJD has backed the idea of fielding an Opposition candidate in the presidential election while its partner JDU has sided with the NDA nominee Ram Nath Kovind.
RJD leader Raghuvansh Prasad Singh on Thursday questioned Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar’s decision to support Kovind’s candidature. “On one hand Nitish ji takes initiative to form national ‘Mahagatbandhan’, on the other hand supports NDA President candidate,” Singh told new agency ANI.
On Wednesday, RJD Chief Lalu Prasad Yadav told reporters that his party will support a consensus candidate after the Opposition parties meet in New Delhi. “We will go with the decision of opposition parties, which will meet in New Delhi tomorrow,” Lalu said. He has, however, refused to comment on the JDU extending support to NDA’s presidential nominee. A source in the party told The Indian Express that ““there is no question of an ideological compromise” and backing Kovind.
Meanwhile, the Opposition camp appears to be split on the issue with the JDU and BJD favouring Kovind, and the JDS and INLD indicating as much. The Congress, Left, Trinamool Congress, SP and RJD, however, appeared to be in favour of a contest for the top post.
Ahead of Thursday’s meeting, former Lok Sabha Speaker Meira Kumar emerged as the frontrunner to take on Kovind. She met Congress president Sonia Gandhi late Wednesday evening. 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.