Tahlka News Bureau
PATNA: The JD(U) chief Nitish Kumar have sought support to the NDA's presidential candidate, Ram Nath Kovind just a day before the 18 Opposition parties are to meet in Delhi to discuss their choice for the support.
The announcement came after a Janta Dal United meeting in Patna, addressed by Nitish as party president."It has been decided that JDU will support Ram Nath Kovind for President. There was unanimity in supporting Lovind who played an outstanding democratic role as governor of Bihar," JDU chief general secretary K.C Tyagi said.
The party has also said that it will not be attending the Opposition meeting tomorrow describing it as "irrelivant".
Tyagoi insisted that Nitish was not moving to the NDA. "This is an exceptional case. Nitish Kunar has been advocating the unity of the Opposition and will continue to do so," he said, after announcing he decision that blows a hole in the Opposition's unity.
However, objection against the decision was seen within the party, whose Kerala unit said it would not support Kovind. Party leader and Rajya Sabha member MP Veerenrakumar said yesterday that the decision has been conveyed to the party's national leadership.
"When I spoke to Nitish (Kumar) to explaun why we cannot vote for a BJP/RSS nominee he fully understood our stand and asked me to proceed with our state unit's decision," he said.
"The BJP and RSS have been systematically destroying the secular values of our country. SO there is no question of supporting their candidate,' he said. The JDU in Kerala is part of the Congress-led united Democratic Front (UDF).
According to sources, Nitish informed both Congress president Sonia Gandhi and RJD chief Lalu Prasad pf his decision to support Kovind immediately after BJP president Amit Shah announced the name on Monday. Congress MP
Ghulam Nabi Azad rushed to Patna yesterday in order to convince Nitish to take back his decision. During a meeting at the Congress's state party headquarters in Sadaqat Ashram where Azad, Nitish and Lalu met yesterday - Azad even joked with the chief minister that he should at least postpone his announcement till Thursday when Sonia holds a meeting with leaders of the 18 Opposition parties.
"It will help save my face," Azad said to Nitish. However, "Nitish smiled but did not reply," recalled a senior Congress leader who was privy to the conversation.
Sources in the RJD said Nitish's support to Kovind was not "wholly unexpected", as it is not the first time he has supported another party's candidate instead of its own. Nitish was also a part of BJP, back in 2012 he supported the UPA candidate Pranab Mukherjee against NDA Nominee P A Sangama.
"Ram Nath Kovind can be a nice man. But he still belongs to the BJP. It is more of an ideological fight against the BJP rather than fight against an individual," said a senior RJD leader.
While RJD chief Lalu Prasad Yadav refused to give any comment on the issue but gave a hint said the party would support the decision taken by Opposition parties in New Delhi Thursday. "We will go with the decision of Opposition parties which will meet in New Delhi tomorrow," he told reporters before leaving for Ranchi where he has appeared in court in connection with a fodder scam case tomorrow.
An RJD leader said he fears of history repeating itself this time. "In 2012, when Nitish Kumar supported Pranb Mukherjee despite being in the NDA, he declared that the NDA government in Bihar was intact. But in 2013 he did part ways with NDA. Lets see if he is going to repeat history," he said.
The Congress took a brave stand. "The Grand Alliance is for Bihar. On national issues the allies are free to take different stand. We also have our own right to take a stand," said Congress spokesperson Harku Jha.
Congress and RJD leaders said they were "bewildered" by Nitish's stand, especially since he had personally met Sonia in April and emphraised on the need to forge Opposition unity for the presidential poll.
The leaders also expressed their concerns over the mixed response of Sharad Pawar's NCP and also at a lack on conscious on a candidate to take on Kovind, who is set to file his nomination on Friday.
Lalu wants former Lok Sabha Speaker Meira Kumar to contest, according to sources. Meira, a daughter of Dalit icon Bbu Jagjivan Ram, met Sonia yesterday evening at the Congress presidents residence in New Delhi.