The battle lines are drawn. With the UPA announcing Meira Kumar as its candidate for the Presidential Election, the fight is now between Ms. Kumar and Ram Nath Kovind, the NDA’s pick for the post.
Here is what you need to know about the two candidates:
1. Meira Kumar
- Born on March 31, 1945.
- She was born in Arrah district, Bihar.
- And was elected unopposed as the first woman Speaker of Lok Sabha and served from 2009 to 2014.
- She is also a lawyer and former diplomat.
- Meira Kumar entered electoral politics in 1985. She was elected from Bijnor in Uttar Pradesh, defeating two Dalit leaders Ram Vilas Paswan and Mayawati. She lost her seat in 1999. However, she was re-elected with a majority from Sasaram in Bihar in 2004 and 2009.
- She is the daughter of freedom fighter and former deputy PM Jagjivan Ram.
- 17 parties including Congress, Left, NCP, RJD and DMK have come out in support of Meira Kumar.
- She has been a part of India’s Mission in Spain and United Kingdom
2. Ram Nath Kovind
- Born October 1, 1945.
- He was born Born in Kanpur Dehat district, Uttar Pradesh.
- And was the Governor of Bihar from 2015 to 2017.
- He was a lawyer who practised in the Delhi High Court and the Supreme Court for 16 years.
- The Dalit leader first stepped into politics in 1994 when he was elected as a Rajya Sabha member from Uttar Pradesh. He served for two consecutive terms for 12 years till March, 2006.
- Mr. Kovind served as a member of the Board of Management of Dr. B.R Ambedkar University, Lucknow. He was also a member of the Board of Governors of Indian Institute of Management, Kolkata.
- Being the NDA candidate, he enjoys the support of BJP and its allies, Shiv Sena and PDP. The JD(U) and both the factions of AIADMK have also pledged support.
- He represented India in the United Nations in New York and addressed United Nations General Assembly in October, 2002.
Interesting Facts about this Presidential Election
- The decision to field Meira Kumar, described as “unanimous” by the Left’s Sitaram Yechury, has secured the key support of Mayawati’s Bahujan Samaj Party. Mayawati, herself a Dalit icon, had indicated that she did not want to be seen as blocking a Dalit candidate’s rise to the top office in the country. “UPA nominee for President’s post Meira Kumar is more capable and popular than NDA candidate,” Ms Mayawati said, according to news agency PTI.
- Sources said Nationalist Congress Party leader Sharad Pawar, who had kept the other opposition parties guessing, was asked to speak first and said he favoured fielding Congress leader Sushil Kumar Shinde or economist Bhalchandra Mungekar, both Dalits too.
- Leaders of other parties, however, backed Meira Kumar. Sonia Gandhi has appealed to all opposition parties to support Ms Kumar’s candidacy. Voting will take place on July 17 and results will be announced three days later on July 20.
- After the opposition’s announcement, Prime Minister Narendra Modi met BJP chief Amit Shah. Senior ministers Venkaiah Naidu and Anant Kumar were also present.
- The BJP and allies now have well over 60 per cent of the vote with the support of several regional parties including both factions of the AIADMK, but the opposition parties say a contest will symbolise “a battle of ideologies”.
- The anti-BJP front was left considerably diminished by Nitish Kumar, the Chief Minister of Bihar, exiting the bloc to support the BJP’s candidate. His partners have requested him to reconsider his decision.
- Lalu Yadav said after the meeting, “I appeal to Nitish Kumar to support the daughter of Bihar… We will meet tomorrow and appeal to him to reconsider. One must not do a historical mistake, you’ve taken a wrong decision”. The Congress’ Ashok Choudhary too urged to Nitish Kumar to change his mind now that the opposition has picked a Dalit candidate from Bihar in Ms Kumar.
By – Mayank Shekhar
- Times of India
- The HINDU