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BJP fields Bihar Governor Kovind for President with eyes on 2019 Lok Sabha

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Opposition in a fix but indicates a contest; Meira Kumar, Ambedkar’s grandson likely candidates

The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) today not just surprised but also seemed to have put several of the Opposition parties in a fix when it announced the name of Ram Nath Kovind, currently Bihar Governor, as its presidential candidate.

That 71-year-old Kovind is a Dalit from Uttar Pradesh and the choice revealed the fierce need felt by the leadership to consolidate its new-found Dalit support base, not just across the country but particularly in UP for the 2019 Lok Sabha polls. It could also lead to cracks in the putative ‘grand alliance’ of Samajwadi Party, Bahujan Samaj Party and in UP.

Biju Janata Dal chief and Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik said his party would support Kovind’s candidature. Patnaik was one of the several leaders, including President Sonia Gandhi and former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, who received phone calls from Prime Minister Narendra Modi during the day.

The choice of Kovind comes in the wake of protests by Dalits in Uttar Pradesh, and elsewhere in the country, against increased atrocities perpetrated on the community by people affiliated with Hindutva groups. The BJP, along with its ally Apna Dal, had won 73 of UP’s 80 seats in 2014, which was crucial to its crossing the majority mark to win 282 seats.

chief Amit Shah announced Kovind’s name after the parliamentary board meeting in the morning. Kovind is known to be a loyal party worker and not known to dissent or disagree with party leadership. He doesn’t have the image of a firebrand Hindutva leader, but party sources said he has been associated with Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh and its affiliates, particularly those working among Dalits. A lawyer by profession, Kovind joined in 1991 and served as a Rajya Sabha member for two terms from 1994 to 2006.

The BJP-led Democratic Alliance has 48.6% votes in the presidential electoral college, and Kovind is expected to comfortably win the election with the support of some of the non-NDA regional parties.

Several of the Opposition parties, while flummoxed initially, indicated by the end of the day that they might put up a contest but would take a final decision at their meeting on June 22. Bahujan Samaj Party chief Mayawati said her party would support Kovind unless the Opposition puts up a Dalit candidate, while Janata Dal (United) sources said their party considered Kovind a good candidate, but would not like to break Opposition unity.

BSP and JD(U) have the significant Dalit support base in their respective states, and BSP would not like the vote against a Dalit from Uttar Pradesh. While the indicated it might field former Lok Sabha speaker Meira Kumar, some other Opposition parties, particularly Biju Janata Dal and Aam Aadmi Party conveyed their unwillingness to support a member. is the daughter of Dalit leader and former deputy Prime Minister Jagjivan Ram.

Leaders in the Congress, Trinamool Congress, Rashtriya Janata Dal and Communist Party of India (Marxist) discussed amongst each other the need to field a joint candidate, preferably a Dalit. At the June 22 meeting, some other Opposition parties might suggest the name of Prakash Ambedkar, the grandson of B R Ambedkar and a well-known politician and Dalit activist in his own right.

Fielding Ambedkar, a Marathi, has the added advantage of BJP’s Maharashtra ally Shiv Sena voting for the Opposition candidate, just as it had supported Congress-led UPA’s Pratibha Patil in 2007. Fielding Ambedkar’s grandson might also convince Mayawati to vote for the Opposition candidate.

The Opposition was miffed that the top bosses did not take them into confidence before announcing their candidate. leader Ghulam Nabi Azad and CPI (M) chief Sitaram Yechury said termed it against the spirit of consensus building that the had promised over the issue. The Opposition is set to highlight the recent killings of Dalits in ruled Uttar Pradesh and Haryana.

It is also preparing to highlight Kovind’s statements in the past where he had opposed quotas for socially and educationally backward among Christians and Muslims since these were “religions alien to India”. As the spokesperson in 2010, Kovind had demanded that report be scrapped. The commission had recommended 15% quota in government jobs for socially and educationally backward sections among India’s religious and linguistic minorities.

Information and Broadcasting Minister Venkaiah Naidu said that Kovind hails from weaker sections of the society and conversant with issues of social justice. He said that Koving being a lawyer has good knowledge of the Constitution and being a farmer is equally familiar with the agrarian sector. Pointing out that in 1977 Neelam Sanjiva Reddy was elected president unanimously, and wide support that APJ Abdul Kalam received in 2002, such consensus can be reached on this occasion as well.

BJP fields Bihar Governor Kovind for President with eyes on 2019 Lok Sabha

Opposition in a fix but indicates a contest; Meira Kumar, Ambedkar’s grandson likely candidates

New Delhi, July 19The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) today not just surprised but also seemed to have put several of the Opposition parties in a fix when it announced the name of Ramnath Kovind, currently Bihar Governor, as its presidential candidate.That 71-year-old Kovind is a Dalit from Uttar Pradesh and the choice revealed the fierce need felt by the BJP leadership to consolidate its new found Dalit support base, not just across the country but particularly in UP for the 2019 Lok Sabha polls. It could also lead to cracks in the putative ‘grand alliance’ of Samajwadi Party, Bahujan Samaj Party and Congress in UP. Biju Janata Dal chief and Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik said his party would support Kovind’s candidature. Patnaik was one of several leaders, including Congress president Sonia Gandhi and former prime minister Manmohan Singh, who received phone calls from Prime Minister Narendra Modi during the day. The choice of Kovind comes in the wake of protests by Dalits in …

The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) today not just surprised but also seemed to have put several of the Opposition parties in a fix when it announced the name of Ram Nath Kovind, currently Bihar Governor, as its presidential candidate.

That 71-year-old Kovind is a Dalit from Uttar Pradesh and the choice revealed the fierce need felt by the leadership to consolidate its new-found Dalit support base, not just across the country but particularly in UP for the 2019 Lok Sabha polls. It could also lead to cracks in the putative ‘grand alliance’ of Samajwadi Party, Bahujan Samaj Party and in UP.

Biju Janata Dal chief and Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik said his party would support Kovind’s candidature. Patnaik was one of the several leaders, including President Sonia Gandhi and former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, who received phone calls from Prime Minister Narendra Modi during the day.

The choice of Kovind comes in the wake of protests by Dalits in Uttar Pradesh, and elsewhere in the country, against increased atrocities perpetrated on the community by people affiliated with Hindutva groups. The BJP, along with its ally Apna Dal, had won 73 of UP’s 80 seats in 2014, which was crucial to its crossing the majority mark to win 282 seats.

chief Amit Shah announced Kovind’s name after the parliamentary board meeting in the morning. Kovind is known to be a loyal party worker and not known to dissent or disagree with party leadership. He doesn’t have the image of a firebrand Hindutva leader, but party sources said he has been associated with Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh and its affiliates, particularly those working among Dalits. A lawyer by profession, Kovind joined in 1991 and served as a Rajya Sabha member for two terms from 1994 to 2006.

The BJP-led Democratic Alliance has 48.6% votes in the presidential electoral college, and Kovind is expected to comfortably win the election with the support of some of the non-NDA regional parties.

Several of the Opposition parties, while flummoxed initially, indicated by the end of the day that they might put up a contest but would take a final decision at their meeting on June 22. Bahujan Samaj Party chief Mayawati said her party would support Kovind unless the Opposition puts up a Dalit candidate, while Janata Dal (United) sources said their party considered Kovind a good candidate, but would not like to break Opposition unity.

BSP and JD(U) have the significant Dalit support base in their respective states, and BSP would not like the vote against a Dalit from Uttar Pradesh. While the indicated it might field former Lok Sabha speaker Meira Kumar, some other Opposition parties, particularly Biju Janata Dal and Aam Aadmi Party conveyed their unwillingness to support a member. is the daughter of Dalit leader and former deputy Prime Minister Jagjivan Ram.

Leaders in the Congress, Trinamool Congress, Rashtriya Janata Dal and Communist Party of India (Marxist) discussed amongst each other the need to field a joint candidate, preferably a Dalit. At the June 22 meeting, some other Opposition parties might suggest the name of Prakash Ambedkar, the grandson of B R Ambedkar and a well-known politician and Dalit activist in his own right.

Fielding Ambedkar, a Marathi, has the added advantage of BJP’s Maharashtra ally Shiv Sena voting for the Opposition candidate, just as it had supported Congress-led UPA’s Pratibha Patil in 2007. Fielding Ambedkar’s grandson might also convince Mayawati to vote for the Opposition candidate.

The Opposition was miffed that the top bosses did not take them into confidence before announcing their candidate. leader Ghulam Nabi Azad and CPI (M) chief Sitaram Yechury said termed it against the spirit of consensus building that the had promised over the issue. The Opposition is set to highlight the recent killings of Dalits in ruled Uttar Pradesh and Haryana.

It is also preparing to highlight Kovind’s statements in the past where he had opposed quotas for socially and educationally backward among Christians and Muslims since these were “religions alien to India”. As the spokesperson in 2010, Kovind had demanded that report be scrapped. The commission had recommended 15% quota in government jobs for socially and educationally backward sections among India’s religious and linguistic minorities.

Information and Broadcasting Minister Venkaiah Naidu said that Kovind hails from weaker sections of the society and conversant with issues of social justice. He said that Koving being a lawyer has good knowledge of the Constitution and being a farmer is equally familiar with the agrarian sector. Pointing out that in 1977 Neelam Sanjiva Reddy was elected president unanimously, and wide support that APJ Abdul Kalam received in 2002, such consensus can be reached on this occasion as well.

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Archis Mohan & Amit Agnihotri

Business Standard

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