New Delhi : In their big meeting today to be attended by 16 of 17 Opposition parties, it is likely that they will zero in on senior Congress leader and its prominent Dalit face, Meira Kumar, as their joint candidate to take on the BJP's Ram Nath Kovind in the July 17 presidential election.
On Tuesday evening, Congress president Sonia Gandhi met Kumar at her residence. The meeting has fueled speculation that the former Lok Sabha Speaker has made the cut among a number of names doing the rounds as the Opposition's candidate for India's next President.
ALL WE KNOW SO FAR:
1. With consensus missing on Kovind, it is clear now that there is going to be a contest for the President on July 17 between the ruling National Democratic Alliance led by the BJP, and the Opposition led by the Congress.
2. Meira Kumar, 72, tops the list of the Opposition's likely candidates. The list so far has another Dalit leader from the Congress Sushil Kumar Shinde, CPI national secretary D Raja, and retired diplomat and Mahatma Gandhi's grandson Gopal Krishna Gandhi.
3. The Left parties are also reported to be rooting for Prakash Ambedkar, a former Member of Parliament and grandson of BR Ambedkar. The 63-year-old Dalit is a former Lok Sabha member from Akola in Maharashtra. He heads the Bharip Bahujan Mahasangh.
4. The Opposition parties barring the Janata Dal (United) are meeting in New Delhi today. There is likely to be a clarity on who will be the Opposition's candidate for the presidential contest by this afternoon.
5. The numbers, however, are stacked against the Opposition, which is already divided now following Janata Dal (United)'s unilateral decision to back former Bihar Governor Ram Nath Kovind, who is 71.
6. While the Opposition had decided it was going to put up a candidate against Kovind and turn the election into an ideological fight, some parties also now admit that by putting up a Dalit candidate, the NDA has left the Opposition with few options.
7. Bahujan Samaj Party chief Mayawati has already indicated that opposing Kovind for President is difficult now unless the Opposition comes up with another prominent Dalit face.
8. Kovind, who is camping in New Delhi since the announcement of his nomination by BJP president Amit Shah on Monday, today met ailing former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee at his residence. On Wednesday, Kovind had met BJP veteran LK Advani and Murali Manohar Joshi.
9. Kovind will file his nomination papers on Friday, following which he is expected to reach out to the Opposition parties for their support.
10. The voting for President will take place on July 17; results will be known three days later on July 20. The term of incumbent President Pranab Mukherjee ends on July 24 and that of Vice-President M Hamid Ansari on August.