Meira Kumar, former Lok Sabha speaker was chosen as the Congress-led Opposition’s presidential candidate against BJP-led NDA’s Ram Nath Kovind.
The announcement was made by Congress President Sonia Gandhi on 22 June 2017. The decision was taken in a meeting of the opposition which was attended by leaders of 17 parties including Left leaders Sitaram Yechury and D. Raja, Nationalist Congress Party leader Sharad Pawar, DMK’s Kanimozhi and National Conference’s Omar Abdullah.
Speaking on the occasion, CPI(M) general secretary Sitaram Yechury said Kumar was the unanimous choice of all the 17 parties and that other parties would also be urged to support her.
Nitish Kumar’s JD(U), which had formally announced its decision to support BJP’s presidential nominee Ram Nath Kovind, skipped the meeting, while RLD chief Ajit Singh was present.
Parties backing Congress candidate
NCP: The party that was maintaining a curious silence so far has shown its support for Meira eventhough the first choice of NCP chief Sharad Pawar was former Maharashtra CM Sushil Kumar Shinde.
The Left: Though the parties were initially backing Mahatma Gandhi’s grandson Gopal Krishna Gandhi or BR Ambedkar's grandson Prakash Ambedkar, they have finally agreed to rally behind Meira.
BSP: The Mayawati-led party, which was represented by Satish Kumar, has also decided to back Meira. The party had earlier declared that it would not block Kovind’s candidature provided the opposition did not field any Dalit for the top post
RJD: Lalu Prasad Yadav’s party has clearly shown its support for Kumar.
TMC: The All India Trinamool Congress represented by Derek O’Brien maintained its stand with the opposition.
SP: Samajwadi Party, represented by Ramgopal Yadav also stood behind Meira, despite SP chief Mulayam Singh Yadav’s earlier declaration of supporting BJP candidate Kovind.
NC: National Conference, the Jammu and Kashmir's main Opposition party, has also decided to support Kumar. The party’s leader and former J&K chief minister, Omar Abdullah was present at the meeting.
The other parties which attended the opposition meet included Janata Dal (Secular), Jharkhand Mukti Morcha, Revolutionary Socialist Party, Kerala Congress, Indian Union Muslim League and the All India United Democratic Front of Assam.
Further, the Congress has stated that they would once again reach out to the remaining opposition parties to seek their support. “There could not have been a better candidate than Meira Kumar for the post of President,” said Ghulam Nabi Azad, leader of the opposition in the Rajya Sabha.
Top facts you didn’t know about Kumar
• She was born in Bihar’s Arrah district and she is five-time Member of Parliament.
• She served as the first woman speaker of Lok Sabha from 2009 to 2014 during the UPA-II rule. She was elected unopposed.
• She has been a part of the 8th,11th, 12th, 14th and 15th Lok Sabha.
• She served as a Cabinet Minister in the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment under Manmohan Singh's Government between 2004 and 2009.
• She is a law graduate and holds a Master's degree in English literature.
• She also has an advanced diploma in Spanish.
• She joined IFS in 1970 and spent her life in many countries.
• She quit her job to fight in the Lok Sabha electoral polls in 1985, when she was elected to Lok Sabha for the first time from Bijnor in Uttar Pradesh, defeating top Dalit leaders Mayawati and Ram Vilas Paswan.
• She is the daughter of former deputy prime minister Babu Jagjivan Ram who is known for working for the oppressed and the downtrodden.
While Meira Kumar’s Candidature surely takes the Presidential polls to a Dalit vs Dalit battle, it is definitely much more than that. Several Opposition members have expressed that there couldn't have been a better candidate than Meira Kumar and that it is not her Dalit background that has earned her the vote but in fact her credentials.
However, there is no doubt about the fact that Kumar’s name might change the game for NDA's Ram Nath Kovind, especially in the case of garnering support from parties like BSP, which had initially shown their interest in support Kovind due to his Dalit background but soon shifted their weight behind Meira.
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