Kovind is NDA Presidential candidate

Ram Nath Kovind

Ram Nath Kovind

"We didn't expect this from them", said senior Congress leader Ghulam Nabi Azad. A source in the CPI (M) also told Catch that the fact that BJP Chief Amit Shah announced his name makes it clear that forget across-the-board consensus, Kovind is only BJP's candidate, not even NDA's.

"The opposition, mainly the Congress and the Left, wants to caste the presidential election as a "(Gopal) Gandhi versus Godse" battle but will now find attrition in its ranks. "The opposition will meet on June 22 - only then we can announce our decision", she said. The reason - many parties would not like to oppose a Dalit being elected to the country's highest office.

However, there are signs that all the opposition parties might not share the same views when it comes to Kovind's nomination. Kovind had also been BJP Scheduled Caste Morcha chief from 1998 to 2002 and President of the All-India Koli Samaj.

While the Opposition mounted an attack on the ruling BJP, accusing it of not consulting them before nominating Kovind, Gopalkrishna Gandhi thanked "all those who wanted to see me contest the election and perchance to win it".

BSP: Mayawati said her party can not take a negative stand against a Dalit.

Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar, another key component of the opposition, said the Governor's credentials are also impressive.

"Ramnathji has always spoken for the deprived sections, and has had a long career in speaking out for Dalits and oppressed sections", said Mr. Shah, while making the announcement. The BJP, Ms Banerjee said, could have fielded a candidate of "stature" like Pranab Mukherjee, LK Advani or Sushma Swaraj.

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Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar hailed Kovind's role as state Governor but remained non-committal on supporting him.

Insiders said the PM announced in the meeting that his Cabinet ministers were too important for him to let go of them and hence they could not be spared to become President. "They informed us after announcing this decision so there is no scope for consensus now..."

Despite a majority, the BJP reached out to all the political parties "in the spirit of democracy", the urban development minister said.

"Governor Kovind is a great man who has worked with the state government by acting as a partner and not as a rival".

The NDA's presidential candidate, Ram Nath Kovind, has created an "uncomfortable" situation for the 17-party Opposition conglomerate and forced it to rethink its strategy.

The opposition parties had formed a sub-committee to select a candidate but decided not to come up with a name till there was clarity about the choice of the ruling alliance.

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