NEW  DELHI,  June  22: The opposition today unanimously decided to field Meira Kumar, a dalit, as its joint candidate for the presidential election against NDA’s dalit activist Ram Nath Kovind, with 17  parties  supporting the former Lok Sabha speaker’s candidature. The decision was taken at a meeting  of  the  17 non-NDA parties  in Parliament House Library, with  the  leaders endorsing the name of the former minister and diplomat, whose father, ex-Deputy Prime Minister Jagjivan Ram, was often hailed as one of the tallest dalit leaders in the country.

“We  have  17  opposition leaders present here and all of us have decided to jointly field Meira Kumar as a candidate for the forthcoming election  for  the President of  India,” Congress president Sonia Gandhi  announced  after the meeting. Asked to comment on Nitish Kumar’s JD-U, which is supporting Kovind  and  stayed out of meeting, she said, “We do hope that other opposition parties join us.” Gandhi added that she was “not upset with anybody”. Her party colleague, senior Congress leader Ghulam Nabi Azad,  said Kumar  had  been “selected  unanimously”. All the  17  parties had  proposed her name, he said. He added Kumar was the “illustrious daughter” of  former Defence Minister Jagjivan Ram. “There could not be a better candidate than her,” he said. CPI-M’s Sitaram Yechury said, “we are appealing to everybody” to support her. 

After the meeting, Lalu Prasad of the RJD said he would meet Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar and “appeal to him again  to  rethink” his party’s decision  to  support  the NDA nominee, which he called a “historic blunder”. He also said there was no threat to the Bihar Government, a coalition of the JD(U), RJD and Congress. BSP’s Satish Chandra Misra said his party leader Mayawati had earlier said if there was a “better Dalit candidate” (than Kovind), the person should be fielded by the Opposition. “Meira Kumar is a better candidate,” Misra quoted the BSP leader and former UP Chief Minister as saying. – PTI

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