New Delhi: The Congress is likely to pick either Sushil Kumar Shinde or Meira Kumar to counter the Dalit card played by the BJP in the nomination of Ram Nath Kovind for upcoming presidential elections.
Sources in the Congress told CNN-News18 that Shinde and Kumar —prominent Dalit faces of the party— are two names likely to be discussed at a meeting of opposition parties on June 22.
While former Union minister Shinde, a leader from Maharashtra, may help the Congress get the Shiv Sena on board, former Lok Sabha speaker Kumar may come in handy to rope in the JD(U) in Bihar.
But Shinde dismissed reports that his name is being considered. “I don’t see any scope in this. This is impossible… no question of this,” he said.
Kovind’s nomination by the BJP has already divided the opposition parties with the JD(U) and the BSP appearing to support him.
“The BSP cannot be negative towards a Dalit nominee for the post of President. Our stand will be positive,” BSP chief Mayawati had said in Lucknow.
“I am personally glad he is the presidential candidate. Kovind has discharged his duties in an unbiased manner as the Bihar governor. He has worked as per the Constitution and upheld the dignity of the governor's post. His was an ideal relation with the state government," Bihar Chief Minister and JD(U) leader Nitish Kumar had said.
Both Mayawati and Kumar had, however, said the matter would be discussed further at the June 22 meeting.
Reacting to the rumours, Rajya Sabha MP Subramanian Swamy said that with Shinde and Kumar in the fray, it promises to be a nice contest. “But the opposition pick should have been chosen from some other party than Congress,” he said.
Speaking to CNN-News18, BJP MP Udit Raj said, “There was no pressure on the party to select Mr Kovind. Don’t look at it from point of view of interest,” he said.
Pawan Verma of JD(U) said all parties are still reacting to BJP's announcement of its nominee. “Some parties have taken an independent position. Any speculation at this time is not fair,” he said.
Differences in the NDA also remain on Kovind’s candidature with key constituent Shiv Sena yet to endorse his candidature. The party had supported UPA candidates Pratibha Patil and Pranab Mukherjee in 2007 and 2012, respectively, over NDA picks, Bhairon Singh Shekhawat and PA Sangma.
Hours after Kovind was announced as the BJP nominee, Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray had said his party didn’t want to indulge in “casteist politics”. "If the name of Kovind is being put forward with a view to garner Dalit votes then the Sena is not interested. Sena has never indulged in the politics of hiding behind someone. We shall decide on whether or not to support the candidature of Kovind tomorrow (Tuesday)."