NEW DELHI: Congress president Sonia Gandhi is expected to attack Prime Minister Narendra Modi at a meeting of opposition parties today, rejecting the government’s contention that it tried to build consensus among parties before announcing Ram Nath Kovind as its nominee for President. Congress leaders alleged that the Prime Minister “called us 15 minutes before the announcement.” Senior party leaders Ahmed Patel and Ghulam Nabi Azad are meeting Mrs Gandhi ahead of the opposition meet.
1.Sources said Sonia Gandhi, who chairs this evening’s meeting, will not propose the name of a Congress leader for President first, but will wait to hear other parties first. The Congress does not want, they said, to seem to push its candidate.
2.The Left’s D Raja denied that Team Opposition is shrinking, asserting that 16 of the 17 parties that had earlier pledged to take field a joint candidate will attend today’s meeting. Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar’s Janata Dal-United will not attend; its decision to drop out and back the BJP’s candidate blew hole in the opposition unity.
3.Several other opposition parties like Mayawati’s BSP and Akhilesh Yadav’s Samajwadi Party will attend the meeting but said they will decide who to back only after assessing the candidate picked to take on Mr Kovind.
4.Painted into a corner by the BJP’s strategy to field a Dalit in Mr Kovind, the Congress and Left are looking for a counter to keep on their side key leaders like Mayawati, who has said she will find it difficult to oppose a Dalit candidate for President unless the opposition too fields one.
5.Congress’ Ghulam Nabi Azad and Ahmed Patel met with NCP chief Sharad Pawar at his house hours before the opposition meet on President. Mr Pawar, who has so far been non-commital on who he will support for the top job also held a meeting of his party leaders this afternoon.
6.Former Lok Sabha Speaker and Congress leader Meira Kumar is seen as a front runner, though names of other Dalit leaders like former union minister Sushil Kumar Shinde and BR Ambedkar’s grandson Prakash Ambedkar have also come up.
7.Sources said Nitish Kumar’s partner Lalu Yadav could propose the name of Meira Kumar, who is a Dalit from his state Bihar. Nitish Kumar’s support to the BJP on the President is seen to have brought his partnership with Lalu Yadav to the brink. Lalu Yadav has said he will attend today’s opposition meeting and “abide by the decision taken there”.
8.”Opposition had to unite; my question is what happened to that unity. He had to work according to the alliance but he did not…We are against the BJP,” said Raghuvansh Prasad, a senior leader of Lalu’s party, in an attack on Nitish Kumar.
9.Hours before the meeting this evening, only the Congress, Left parties, the Trinamool Congress and Lalu Yadav’s RJD have confirmed that they are on board to ensure a contest for the post of President.
10.The BJP and allies now have over 60 per cent of the vote with the support of several regional parties including both factions of the AIADMK.