Opposition's views taken into account in picking Ram Nath Kovind

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Ram Nath Kovind, 71, is likely to take up the largely ceremonial post when the term of Pranab Mukherjee ends next month, becoming the second Dalit to be India's head of state.

A lawyer by profession, Kovind belongs to Koli community, a sub-caste of larger Dalit community who have faced extreme depravation and discrimination in Northern India. He has always been associated with the poor, backwards and Dalits...

"I only hope that the opposition parties will support Kovindji and join us in getting him elected unanimously as the President of India", he told reporters.

Union minister M Venkaiah Naidu, who was part of the three-member panel formed to hold discussions and build a consensus on a presidential candidate, said the suggestions of opposition parties played a role in the NDA picking Kovind.

Jagan Mohan Reddy, its chief, said on Twitter, "I and my party, wholeheartedly support the candidature of Sri Ram Nath Kovind Ji, Dalit leader and a fine Statesman, as Presidential nominee". "Shri Kovind's knowledge and understanding of the Constitution will benefit the nation", the PM tweeted.

Thackeray told Shah June 18 that the Shiv Sena - the BJP's oldest and most prominent ally - would make a decision only after the BJP's presidential nominee was named. The Prime Minister today said Kovind will make an exceptional President and continue to be a strong voice for the poor, downtrodden and marginalised.

While his selection is going to cause huge heart burn among senior members of the BJP such as Murli Manohar Joshi, Ram Naik, L K Advani, it's a logical choice for the Dalit outreach and the mission of unifying "Hindu Samaj".

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

The Congress was unimpressed, however, and accused the ruling party of making a "unilateral announcement".

Kovind as an NDA choice can not be easily rejected or defeated by the opposition parties as he is known as a non-controversial BJP politician.

The surprise decision stunned the opposition which accused the ruling party of unilateralism. The opposition has called a meeting on June 22 which will be presided by Congress President Sonia Gandhi. "I did", he said sarcastically.

Azad also did not say whether or not the opposition will field a candidate for the July 17 contest. However, there were also those in the opposition who kept their options open. Meira Kumar's name may ensure support of both JD (U) and BSP as she is Dalit leader from Bihar. But other parties like the TRS, which is in power in Telangana, were unambiguous in their support.

YSRCP - Another non-NDA constituent which gave the NDA candidate a thumbs-up was the YSRCP, the Andhra Pradesh-based party.

Kovind's nomination to the largely ceremonial post of president would be expected to garner enough votes from the BJP and its allies in an electoral college that brings together federal and state lawmakers. As per the Constitution, the victor in Indian Presidential Election is decided by an Electoral College system.

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