- Nitish Kumar broke with opposition to back BJP choice for President
- Opposition meets today, chooses Gopal Gandhi for Vice-President
- He is Mahatma Gandhi's grandson, Nitish Kumar wanted him for President
Attendees who asked not to be named said Gopalkrishna Gandhi's name was the only one discussed.
He had also been considered as the opposition's choice for the President of India, who will be elected on Monday. However, the anti-BJP front dithered over its nomination and eventually selected former Speaker Meira Kumar for that election.
The delay - in particular by the Congress, which pivots the opposition bloc formed to challenge the BJP - allowed Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar the wriggle room to defect to the BJP's side. He said he would support its candidate for President, Ram Nath Kovind, who was Governor of Bihar till he was announced as the BJP's contender for Rashtrapati Bhavan.
Nitish Kumar was attacked by the Congress and Lalu Yadav - both his allies - for supporting the BJP. In his defence, his aides said that early last month, when opposition leaders met at the 94th birthday celebration for M Karunanidhi in Chennai, the Bihar Chief Minister had made it clear that Gopal Gandhi was a welcome choice. However, the Congress, in charge of pulling parties together, waited on the decision. In the meantime, the BJP picked Ram Nath Kovind, leaving Nitish Kumar with no choice but to back him, said his aides.
Nitish Kumar caused the bloc some palpitations by skipping today's session, though he sent Sharad Yadav, his party's other top leader, to attend the summit. The Bihar Chief Minister has also stressed that his voting with the BJP on the matter of President is a one-off and that he remains committed to the opposition league that he helped form in April.
Today's meeting included representatives of Mamata Banerjee's Trinamool Congress, Mayawati's Bahujan Samaj Party, Akhilesh Yadav's Samajwadi Party. Rahul Gandhi, whose mother is the Congress chief, was also present along with former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.