National / World

Shiv Sena puts BJP in quandary over Presidential nominee; Oppn to meet on Jun 22

Mumbai, Jun 20 (IANS): Virtually accusing the BJP of playing Dalit vote-bank politics, the Shiv Sena on Monday said if the ally had put forth Ram Nath Kovind's name merely to capture the community's votes, it would not support him.

"If they have declared Kovind's name for getting Dalit votes, then we are not interested. The Shiv Sena has always kept away from such vote-bank politics," said Thackeray at a rally to mark the party's 51st foundation day celebrations.

He added that if the next President proves to be beneficial for all the people of the country and not just Dalits, "then make anybody. We will openly support".

However, he said a final decision on the BJP candidate would be taken at a meeting of party leaders here scheduled for Tuesday.

Harping on the party's pet names - RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat and agro-scientist M. S. Swaminathan - Thackeray said Bhagwat was proposed as India is a Hindu nation, but the country has lost a good opportunity by ignoring him.

"If anybody had reservations about Bhagwat, then we suggested Swaminathan for the benefit of the farmers of the country. We are always standing solidly behind the farming community," said Thackeray.

Earlier this afternoon, Sena MP Sanjay Raut said BJP President Amit Shah called up Thackeray only after announcing Kovind as its candidate for the July 17 election, hinting the party was not taken into confidence beforehand.

"Shah informed him (Thackeray) about the BJP choice and also sought the Shiv Sena's support for Kovind's candidature," Raut said.

The oldest and most prominent ally of the BJP, Thackeray told Shah on Sunday that his party would take a decision only after the BJP's Presidential nominee was named.

On two occasions in the past, the Shiv Sena had deviated from the NDA line by supporting UPA candidates: in 2007 when Pratibha Patil won the election and in 2012 when incumbent Pranab Mukherjee was elected.

On the first occasion, Sena supremo Bal Thackeray had thrown his lot behind Patil on grounds that she was the first Maharashtrian and a woman to occupy the top constitutional post.

Patil defeated NDA candidate and Vice President B.S. Shekhawat.

In 2012, Mukherjee personally called up and later met Thackeray soliciting his support, which the Sena chief offered, going against the BJP-supported NDA candidate, P.A. Sangma.

This time round, the Sena stance on Kovind's candidature would be considered crucial as it is a partner both at the centre and in Maharashtra.

Presidential poll: Surprised opposition to meet on June 22

After the BJP on Monday named Bihar Governor Ram Nath Kovind as the NDA's presidential candidate, the opposition -- taken by surprise -- hesitated to question his credentials but said it will hold a meeting on June 22 to chalk out its strategy.

Opposition leaders have agreed to attend the June 22 meeting, to be chaired by Congress President Sonia Gandhi to take a final decision on the July 17 presidential election, senior Congress leader Ghulam Nabi Azad said here.

West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee expressed surprise over the name and said that "in order to support someone, we must know the person".

"Candidate should be someone who will be beneficial for the country. The opposition will meet on June 22 -- only then we can announce our decision," she said.

Sulking BJP ally Shiv Sena too indicated its unhappiness, saying it was not consulted on the candidate.

The nomination of Kovind, a Dalit leader, by the Bharatiya Janata Party appeared to have put the opposition in a quandary as the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) said it cannot oppose the NDA candidate unless the opposition puts up a popular Dalit candidate.

Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar hailed Kovind's role as state Governor but remained non-committal on supporting him.

Communist Party of India-Marxist leader Sitaram Yechury said Kovind "was chief of the RSS's Dalit branch" and "somewhere it was a political fight or contest".

Azad also accused the BJP of "unilateralism" but did not say whether or not the opposition will field a candidate for the July 17 contest.

"So far as the National Democratic Alliance nominee is concerned, the Congress has nothing to say on the merits or demerits. All the opposition parties had collectively decided on evolving a consensus on the Presidential candidate when leaders of 18 parties met," Azad said.

"We had full hope that before announcing they will discuss some names. They did inform us but only after they had decided on the name," he said and termed the outreach by the BJP as a "formality".

Mayawati, in her remarks to the media, said: "We are not against Kovind's nomination... As he is a Dalit, we can't oppose his name, but only if the united opposition doesn't announce a popular Dalit name."

Shiv Sena MP Sanjay Raut told media persons in Mumbai that BJP President Amit Shah called up Sena President Uddhav Thackeray after announcing Kovind's name and sought his support.

Thackeray said he will call a Sena meeting before taking a final call. Thackeray told Shah on Sunday that the Sena will take a decision after the BJP announces the candidate.

Banerjee said senior BJP leaders L.K. Advani or Sushma Swaraj could have been made candidates.

"The President's is a key post. Someone of the stature of Pranab Mukherjee, or even Sushma Swaraj or Advani-ji, may have been made the candidate," she said.

Nitish Kumar called on Kovind in Patna and said he is "personally glad" over his candidature, but was non-commital on Janata Dal-United's support to his candidature.

"Kovind has discharged his duties as Bihar Governor in an unbiased manner. He has worked as per the Constitution and upheld the dignity of the Governor's post. His was an ideal relationship with the state government," Nitish Kumar said.

As to whether the JD-U will support his candidature, Nitish Kumar said they will discuss the issue later and decide.

Sonia Gandhi had taken the initiative to forge a consensus on the opposition's candidate for the presidential poll.

The opposition parties had formed a sub-committee to select a candidate but decided not to come up with a name till there was clarity about the choice of the ruling alliance.

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Comment on this article

  • vincent rodrigues, bangaluru/Katapadi

    Tue, Jun 20 2017

    If BJP has played caste cards to corner the votes,it is really wrong because the President need to be one who is acceptable to all

    DisAgree [2] Agree [3] Reply Report Abuse

  • Francis Lewis, Sastan / Bangalore

    Tue, Jun 20 2017

    Sushma Swaraj may be the Right person for the Post

    DisAgree [4] Agree [6] Reply Report Abuse

  • L n T, Mumbai

    Tue, Jun 20 2017

    May be there will very soon Mid term election BJP had already put up big big hoardings all over Mumbai
    Be prepared

    DisAgree Agree [8] Reply Report Abuse

  • mahesh, Mangalore

    Tue, Jun 20 2017

    even if shivasena doesnt vote, NDA will still win in the presidential elections.
    let us not talk about consensus. There has not been any consensus whenever congress was in power.

    DisAgree [10] Agree [8] Reply Report Abuse

  • Leslie, udupi

    Tue, Jun 20 2017

    Whatever you do again...
    Please do not repeat Prathibha Patil situation...
    Country already has too many issues...
    We can not tolerate another like that...
    It was a blatant blot on the high morals of our past and present Presidents...
    No more such blunders please...

    DisAgree Agree [10] Reply Report Abuse

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Title : Shiv Sena puts BJP in quandary over Presidential nominee; Oppn to meet on Jun 22


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