By putting up Meira Kumar as a joint opposition figure, the opposition wants to give the ruling party a tough fight even if the numbers are stacked against them. Photograph: (Others)
The opposition camp received its biggest blow in the form of Nitish Kumar-led JD(U) deciding to support the NDA candidate Ram Nath Kovind
By Ankit Saproo
The opposition has picked former Lok Sabha Speaker and Congress party leader Meira Kumar as its presidential nominee to take on the NDA candidate Ram Nath Kovind in next month's presidential polls.
Rejecting the likes of Gopalkrishna Gandhi and Prakash Ambedkar, the opposition rallied behind Meira Kumar to take on Kovind dealing a blow to the ruling party's efforts to create a consensus around its presidential nominee. But the cracks in the opposition camp were visible even before the meeting began as one of the key members, Nitish Kumar of the JD(U), sided with the BJP on the choice of presidential candidate.
Another key opposition figure, BSP's Mayawati, has decided to back Meira Kumar in what should be a relief for the opposition camp as she had expressed that in the event the opposition does not come up with a better Dalit candidate, she would go with the BJP's choice Kovind, a Dalit.
By putting up Meira Kumar as a joint opposition figure, the opposition wants to give the ruling party a tough fight even if the numbers are stacked against them.
Meira Kumar, who is the daughter of former deputy Prime Minister and senior Dalit leader Jagjivan Ram, served as the Lok Sabha Speaker in the second UPA regime. She was elected as Speaker by the entire House unanimously. She was famous for her polite interventions during the tumultuous proceedings and was known for her poise.
She quit Indian Foreign Service to join politics and contested for the first time against political heavyweights like Mayawati and Ram Vilas Paswan in 1985. She won the elections and became a member of parliament from Uttar Pradesh's Bijnore.
By nominating Meira Kumar, the opposition has made the presidential fight next month a matter of competitive Dalit politics.
Apart from JD(U), other regional parties like the BJD and YSR Congress have also extended support to Kovind. Political observers are saying that Kovind's victory is not a question of 'if he will win' but 'by what margin will he win?'
Whether more opposition parties will switch loyalities is someting to watch out for but by pitting Meira Kumar against Ram Nath Kovind, the Presidential polls will be a battle between two Dalit candidates in a larger fight to win the Dalit vote bank which holds the key to 2019 Lok Sabha polls.