NEW DELHI: Keen to avoid the delay that was seen to be a factor in dividing the opposition over the presidential poll, the opposition named former West Bengal governor Gopalkrishna Gandhi as its candidate for vice-president on Tuesday, with the JD(U) also approving the choice.
The JD(U)’s presence and approval were important as the party-backed Gandhi despite mounting troubles with alliance partner RJD and its chief Lalu Prasad over corruption charges and investigations into Lalu and his family members. In the case of the presidential poll, delay in finalising a candidate was seen to have led to JD(U) leader Nitish Kumar endorsing NDA nominee Ram Nath Kovind, who as Bihar governor enjoyed a good rapport with the Bihar chief minister. JD(U) and some other opposition parties later blamed Congress for delaying a decision on the nominee for President.
A retired IAS officer and diplomat, Gandhi is the grandson of Mahatma Gandhi and C Rajagopalachari, the last governor-general of India. His name was discussed as the opposition candidate for President too before former Lok Sabha Speaker Meira Kumar was chosen to counter Kovind’s Dalit credentials. Senior leaders present during the meeting said there was a string of endorsements for Gandhi.
Eventually, his name was proposed by Trinamool Congress, represented in the meeting by Derek O’Brien. The Left parties — CPM and CPI — backed Gandhi, and JD(U), whose Sharad Yadav was seated beside Congress president Sonia Gandhi, also supported the nomination. With no other name proposed, and all 18 political parties present backing Gandhi’s candidature, Congress general secretary Ghulam Nabi Azad and CPI secretary D Raja then spoke to Gandhi, informing him of his nomination and seeking his acceptance. A formal announcement of his candidature was made by Sonia, who said Gandhi had accepted the proposal.
The NDA, meanwhile, is expected to announce its VP candidate in a couple of days. Though the odds are stacked in favour of the NDA nominee, the opposition parties insisted this was an ideological fight that they wanted to contest. Tuesday’s meeting also saw leaders observing a minute’s silence to pay homage to the Amarnath pilgrims who were killed in a terror attack on Monday. The opposition parties also unanimously condemned the attack, only the second such attack to have taken place after 2000.