.........PATNA: Sources in the Janata Dal (U) confirmed that the UPA's decision to nominate Meira Kumar, Dalit leader and five-term MP from Bihar, as its presidential candidate, has put pressure on it to rethink its support to the NDA candidate, Ram Nath Kovind.
A senior JD(U) leader admitted that Meira Kumar, whose nomination was announced on Thursday by Congress president Sonia Gandhi, strikes a contrast with the NDA's choice of Kovind, also a Dalit leader and also a Bihar governor until he resigned this week.
“It has now become a complex situation. Meira Kumar is a leader from Bihar. She is a Dalit. She was the speaker of the Lok Sabha and has a clean image," he said.
Minutes after 17 opposition parties led by the Congress announced Meira Kumar’s name in Delhi, calls went out from Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar’s residence summoning senior party leaders for discussions.
Sources said senior JD(U) leaders, including the party’s state chief Vashistha Narayan Singh and some cabinet ministers received calls for an “urgent meeting” in the light of the latest development on the presidental election.
Lalu Prasad Yadav of the Rashtriya Janata Dal, a partner in Nitish Kumar's government, said he still hopes to persuade Nitish Kumar to change his decision on supporting Kovind.
JD(U) leaders, however, indicated that there was little likelihood of Nitish Kumar withdrawing his decision for Kovind.
“Our decision was taken with full consensus within the party. Even during the last presidential election in 2012, when JD(U) and BJP had an alliance government in Bihar, we had supported the UPA candidate, Pranab Mukherjee,” said JD(U) spokesperson Rajiv Ranjan.
However, Nitish Kumar's announcement did not go down well with some leaders in the RJD. The latter party's vice-president Raghuvansh Prasad Singh hit out at the chief minister for “unilaterally announcing” JD(U)’s support for Kovind a day before the scheduled meeting of opposition parties.
“Such steps are weakening opposition's unity,” said Raghuvansh Prasad Singh.