New Delhi, June 22 (newsin.asia): It’s going to be one Dalit against another, a male against a female, in the Indian Presidential election slated for July 17, making it one of the most interesting Presidential elections since India adopted its constitution in 1950.
With the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) putting up Ram Nath Kovind, a Dalit, the opposition United Progressive Alliance (UPA) led by the Congress party on Thursday announced that it is putting up Meira Kumar, a Dalit, and the daughter of veteran Dalit leader, Babu Jagjivan Ram.
The Dalits are the lowest in India’s caste hierarchy who were formerly dubbed “untouchable”.
72 year old Kumar had been a Member of Parliament for five terms and was Speaker of the Lower House of parliament from 2009 to 2014.
Seventeen opposition parties met at the Parliament library on Thursday to choose a consensus candidate and unanimously picked Meira Kumar as their nominee.
Announcing her candidature at a press conference in New Delhi, the Leader of the Opposition in the Rajya Sabha (Upper House) , Ghulam Nabi Azad, said that Kumar is a “crusader for social justice.”
Azad said the Opposition couldn’t have picked a better candidate.
Meira Kumar has worked in various Indian missions across the world as an Indian Foreign Service officer before she plunged into politics in Bihar as a member of the Congress party of which her father was one of the top leaders.
She was Union Minister for Water Resources in the United Progressive Alliance government.
Four names were considered besides Meira Kumar. They were Sushil Kumar Shinde, Bhalchandra Mungekar and Prakash Ambedkar –all Dalits.
“The choice of Meira Kumar was unanimous. We have appealed to others in the opposition to support her,” Marxist leader Sitaram Yechuri said.
Kumar had met Congress President Sonia Gandhi at the latter’s residence on Wednesday, fueling speculation that she had emerged as the frontrunner.
The Opposition’s plan to take on the NDA faced a setback as the Janata Dal (United) favored Kovind, who was the Bihar Governor. The Janata Dal (Secular) had also reportedly sided with the NDA pick, leading to cracks in the opposition camp.
JD(U)’s ally in Bihar, Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) had, however, backed the idea of fielding an Opposition candidate.
Speaking to reporters outside Parliament, RJD chief Lalu Prasad Yadav said: “Nitishji called me and said that it was his personal decision to support Kovind. I would appeal to him to rethink.”
Yadav said that the opposition is fighting an ideological battle with the BJP and not the merits and demerits of the candidates.
At today’s Opposition meeting, Sonia Gandhi, Manmohan Singh, A K Antony, Ghulam Nabi Azad, Sharad Pawar, Ahmed Patel, Sitaram Yechury, D Raja and Omar Abdullah were among the prominent leaders present.
Trinamool Congress leader Mamata Banerjee and Samajwadi Party’s Akhilesh Yadav gave the meeting a miss, but they had sent their representatives.
The Left were earlier in favor of former West Bengal Governor Gopal Krishna Gandhi or B R Ambedkar’s grandson Prakash Ambedkar, but it appears the Congress put their weight behind Meira Kumar, the Indian Express said.
(The featured picture is a file photo of Meira Kumar as Speaker of the Indian parliament)