After a nearly-two hour meeting of the parliamentary party – BJP’s top decision-making body – party chief Amit Shah named Bihar Governor Ram Nath Kovind as the NDA government’s candidate for the presidential election.
NEW DELHI: The BJP has picked Bihar Governor Ram Nath Kovind as its choice for President of India, said party chief Amit Shah today. The announcement was made after Prime Minister Narendra Modi met with Mr Shah and other top leaders of his party. PM Modi has talked to Congress leaders Sonia Gandhi and Dr Manmohan Singh to seek their support for the BJP’s nominee. As a gesture of respect, the BJP also called party veterans LK Advani and Murli Manohar Joshi to inform them of its nominee before going public.
- Ram Nath Kovind is 71 years old, a Dalit and has served as Bihar Governor for three years. He has been asked to travel from Patna to Delhi and is expected in the national capital this evening.
- The selection of a Dalit leader for President is a move by the BJP to consolidate its growing support among backward castes and poorer voters.
- The opposition has said that despite the BJP talking of wanting a “consensus candidate”, it sought no input on Governor Kovind’s candidature.
- That complaint was duplicated by the BJP’s permanently disgruntled ally, the Shiv Sena, which said it learnt through the media of the nomination for President. The Sena will announce tonight whether it will back the Governor, party leaders said.
- Yesterday, Mr Shah visited Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray but named no candidates for President, said Sena leaders like Sanjay Raut.
- The opposition will meet on Thursday to decide whether it should back Governor Kovind or put up a candidate of its own.
- Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar , who enjoys a good working relationship with Governor Kovind, visited him this evening. Many opposition parties are likely to find it tough to oppose a candidate who is a Dalit, said commentators.
- If an election is held, the BJP and its allies are positioned to make their candidate win because regional parties, including some from the south, have committed their support to the ruling alliance.
- The PM has personally informed several Chief Ministers including Naveen Patnaik of Odisha and Chandrababu Naidu of Andhra Pradesh about his coalition’s candidate.
- Governor Kovind, who will file his nomination papers on Friday, will meet PM Modi before he leaves for the US this weekend.