- JDU on Wednesday evening announced it will back Ram Nath Kovind
- Party won't attend opposition meeting in Delhi to pick a candidate
- Nitish Kumar will break ranks with the opposition that he helped collate
"The JDU will support NDA nominee Ram Nath Kovind and will skip the opposition meet on presidential poll tomorrow," Mr Tyagi said in Patna on Wednesday, emphasising that this was an "isolated incident" that would have no impact on opposition unity. "The party decided to extend support to Ram Nath Kovind because his tenure was excellent and he performed his duties with dignity... He never went on a confrontation course with the state government," he added.
Former Janata Dal-United chief Sharad Yadav said, "Our alliance is intact and we will continue opposing the NDA," referring to the party's partners in Bihar, the Congress and Lalu Yadav's RJD.
Nitish Kumar had reportedly conveyed his decision that the JD(U) will not support the opposition if it puts up its own contender to Congress leader Sonia Gandhi and Lalu Yadav on Monday after the BJP declared Mr Kovind as its nominee.
Mr Kovind, 71, who is a Dalit, was Governor of Bihar till the BJP chose him as its surprise nominee for President. Chief Minister Kumar has praised Mr Kovind substantially for serving as an impartial Governor.
By supporting Mr Kovind for President, Mr Kumar will break ranks with a 17-member bloc of the opposition that he had helped collate and which is scheduled to meet on Thursday at a session chaired by Mrs Gandhi.
The BJP and its allies, with the support of regional parties, have about 60 per cent of the vote, but the Congress is keen on an election; so is the Left, which has said the contest will reflect a "battle of ideologies."
In 2012, Mr Kumar broke with the national alliance led by the BJP that he was then a part of to support Mr Mukherjee, who was the government's candidate, rather than the opposition's contender, PA Sangma.
The opposition had intended to use the election for President this year to demonstrate a new and growing unity, one that could challenge Prime Minister Narendra Modi in the general election in 2019. But after Mr Kovind was named, leaders like Mayawati, who are essential for a united anti-BJP front, have indicated that it's tough to oppose a Dalit candidate and risk alienating the politically vital community and lower castes.
As a counter, the Left has suggested two Dalit options, both from the Congress - former Lok Sabha speaker Meira Kumar and former union minister Sushil Kumar Shinde. But it is for their party to act on the proposal, said D Raja of the CPI on Tuesday.
Mr Kumar governs Bihar in partnership with Lalu Yadav and the Congress. With his children, two of whom are Bihar ministers, named in corruption cases by tax officials, Lalu is reportedly determined to not be seen on the same side as the centre and is lobbying hard for an election, said sources.
The Congress is keen on a contest as it tries to signal its relevance despite its huge losses in a series of elections.