Presidential election 2017: It’s Meira versus Kovind for Raisina

New Delhi: Ending week-long speculation, the Opposition parties on Thursday unanimously named Meira Kumar, daughter of former deputy prime minister Jagjivan Ram, as their nominee to take on Ram Nath Kovind in what is billed to be a Dalit versus Dalit contest for the next month’s presidential poll.

Meira Kumar,72, who was the Speaker of the Lok Sabha from 2009-2014, has been a former diplomat, a lawyer and a Lok Sabha MP from Delhi. More importantly, she is a native of Bihar, unlike Kovind who may have been Bihar Governor but comes from Uttar Pradesh.

Why is this so important? Because Nitish Kumar supposedly gave his party’s all-important support to Kovind since the latter worked in his state. “Now that Meira Kumar is the Opposition candidate, he may have to rethink his decision,” said a leader who participated in the Opposition meet where Meira Kumar was chosen.

Earlier in the day, 16 Opposition parties met in Parliament House under the leadership of Sonia Gandhi to pick its nominee. NCP supremo Sharad Pawar, who had earlier in the day held his party’s meeting at his Janpath residence, was also present along with former PM Manmohan Singh, RJD chief Lalu Yadav, Left leaders Sitaram Yechury and D Raja and former Union minister Ajit Singh.

The Samajwadi Party, the Trinamool Congress and the BSP’s top leaders did not attend but a Congress spokesman said their representatives supported the candidature of Meira Kumar.

Congress sources told Free Press Journal if Opposition parties had named Meira Kumar as their choice before BJP announced the name of Kovind, it would have given the UPA grouping some early advantage. In that case, people like Nitish Kumar would have found it difficult to oppose her candidature.

Though in number game Meira Kumar may not appear to be a strong candidate, her education, family, caste, political background and rich experience would give Kovind a stiff fight. Meira Kumar is considered an insider in Delhi politics as she was a Union minister in Manmohan Singh’s Cabinet in UPA’s first term. She may also get some advantage because of her family lineage.

Meanwhile, RJD chief Lalu Prasad is working overtime to get his party’s ally in Bihar, Nitish Kumar, on board. Soon after the Opposition meeting in Delhi, Lalu told reporters that the JD(U) decision to support NDA presidential candidate Ram Nath Kovind was “a historic blunder”. He said he would appeal to the Bihar CM to reconsider his decision.

“We have made an appeal and will meet him at an iftar party on Friday and urge him to review his decision. I will tell him not to commit a historic blunder as his decision to support the BJP candidate is wrong,” Lalu said.

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