Congress Says No Scope for Consensus on BJP's President Nominee

Cheryl Sanders
June 20, 2017

Prime Minister Modi on Monday took to Twitter and, in a series of tweets, said, "Shri Ram Nath Kovind, a farmer's son, comes from a humble background". The BSP said it was "positive" on Kovind's name and added that it would support the Opposition's candidate only if they fielded a Dalit candidate.

"After discussing with senior party leaders, BJD has made a decision to support the candidature of Ram Nath Kovind", Patnaik told reporters after receiving a telephone call from Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Union Parliamentary Affairs Minister H.N. Anantha Kumar, Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi and BJP chief whip Rakesh Singh arrange for the other signatures on these papers. "He has worked as per the Constitution and upheld the dignity of the Governor's post", the Chief Minister said after congratulating Mr Kovind in person.

Opposition parties have sought to keep up the suspense on extending their support and may even put up a joint candidate. Kovind, a Dalit and a lawyer who practised in the Delhi High Court and Supreme Court for 16 years after which he was a Rajya Sabha MP twice before he was catapulted to gubernatorial office, is expected to bring dividends to the BJP through the Dalit vote in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections. "We will also discuss the name announced by the NDA". While the Telangana Rashtra Samithi, YSR Congress and the Biju Janata Dal have already announced their support for Kovind, leaders such as Mayawati and Nitish Kumar have also come under pressure to back him.

However, it remains to be seen how the Shiv Sena reacts to the development, though BJP leaders say all allies are on board or will be after the party reaches out to them.

Earlier on Monday, Patnaik said that his BJD will decide on Kovind after discussion between senior party leaders.

Seventy-year-old Kovind is a Dalit leader from Kanpur of Uttar Pradesh. Bihar CM Nitish Kumar expressed happiness that the governor of his state has been chosen.

Reacting to Mayawati's "Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) should have selected a name from a non-political background which will be better" remark, NCP leader Majeed Memon said the former can not openly oppose a Dalit candidate so she went the other way. "Just because he (Kovind) was a leader of the BJP's Dalit Morcha, they have nominated him", she said in a statement.

The electoral college, which elects the president through the system of proportional representation, comprises elected MPs and members of state legislative assemblies - a total of 4,896 voters including 4,120 MLAs and 776 elected MPs. The nomination papers will, in all likelihood, be filed on June 23.

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