Modi's ruling BJP backs low-caste leader for president of India

BJP picks Bihar Governor Ram Nath Kovind to be presidential candidate

BJP picks Bihar Governor Ram Nath Kovind to be presidential candidate

Virtually accusing the Bharatiya Janata Party of playing Dalit vote-bank politics, the Shiv Sena June 19 said it would not support Ram Nath Kovind if he had been nominated merely to win Dalit votes.

Jagan Mohan Reddy, its chief, said on Twitter, "I and my party, wholeheartedly support the candidature of Sri Ram Nath Kovind Ji, Dalit leader and a fine Statesman, as Presidential nominee".

"Kovindji has worked for several years for the backward classes' welfare", BJP chief Amit Shah said while announcing his name soon after the BJP Parliamentary Board meeting held for the objective at the party head office.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi has requested our party leader and Telangana Chief Minister KCR to support the NDA presidential nominee.

Soon after his name was proposed for the new president Ram Nath Kovind, a long-time BJP worker, rushed to New Delhi and drove to Prime Minister's residence to meet Narendra Modi.

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Mr Coveney said a number of "core issues" still stand in the way of an agreement but he said he did not consider them "insurmountable".

Kovind's appointment as Bihar governor was done without any consultation with the state government or the chief minister.

The BJP's taciturn ally Shiv Sena has kept a card up in its sleeve on the issue, saying Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray will convene a meeting of party leaders to decide on supporting Kovind. However a decision in this regard will be taken only on June 22 when the 18-party opposition front led by the Congress will hold a meeting to discuss the latest development. Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) chief Mayawati said that the party is "positive on his name because he is a Dalit, but only if the Opposition does not announce a more popular Dalit name". "An intellectual with high values belonging to the Dalit community is very apt in all respects for the president's post", N Chandrababu Naidu, chief of the TDP, told PM Modi. The Sena will take a final decision tomorrow regarding its support to 71-year-old Kovind, who is the governor of Bihar.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi is leaving for the US on Friday and it is believed that all the formalities will be completed before then. He is likely to file his nomination on July 23 as President Pranab Mukherjee's term ends on July 24.

Shah said political parties had been informed of the NDA's choice. The JD (U) said it was happy about Kovind's nomination, but added that the question of support could be addressed only after discussions with the other Opposition parties. The Prime Minister today said Kovind will make an exceptional President and continue to be a strong voice for the poor, downtrodden and marginalised. "We don't want to comment on the merits and demerits of the candidate", Congress spokesperson Ghulam Nabi Azad said at a press conference. "The opposition will meet on June 22 - only then we can announce our decision", she said.

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