It is a duty, says Ram Nath Kovind

Majority of opposition leaders seemed to share an opinion that Kovind was chosen merely for his Dalit background.

Seventy-one-year-old Kovind is a former BJP national spokesperson who was close to AB Vajpayee and LK Advani.

"They (BJP) took a decision unilaterally, but it is up to them. We hope that India will find an extremely wonderful president in Ramnath Kovind", Kavitha told.

Congress leader Ghulam Nabi Azad declined to go into the merits and demerits of Kovind and did not say whether or not the opposition will field a candidate. "Secondly, no party will want to challenge a Dalit candidate". "No political party should think that it is going to win every election.The situation in the state is fast changing. Opposition will meet on June 22, then only we can announce our decision", she added. But they gave no names.

Meanwhile, Telangana Chief Minister K Chandrasekhar Rao and Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister Chandrababu Naidu said that their respective parties have offered full support to the NDA on their selection of the presidential candidate.

Union Minister M. Venkaiah Naidu insisted that all parties were consulted. "Now, they have named a person with RSS background".

Thackeray said he will call a Sena meeting before taking a final call.

Sources said that the Congress chief has not immediately extended her party's support for the BJP's presidential candidate during her telephone conversation with Modi, but said she would get back to him after consultation with her party colleagues. They are concerned about Dalit votes in country, which accounts for 16.52%.

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.

"The office of President is a key post".

Shah said political parties had been informed of the NDA's choice. Earlier in the day, the Shiv Sena was noncommittal about backing the NDA's candidate. "We will discuss later and decide".

The NCP also said the future course of action by the opposition parties will be decided in the June 22 meet.

Meanwhile, the BJP's masterstroke has stumped everyone, including the media, as Kovind was nowhere on the radar. Similarly, the Samajwadi Party and Mayawati will also find it hard to oppose a Dalit candidate who belongs to Uttar Pradesh.

Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar expressed "happiness" over NDA's decision to choose Kovind as their presidential candidate. Kovind is the Governor of Bihar at present. I am sure Shri Ram Nath Kovind will make an exceptional President & continue to be a strong voice for the poor, downtrodden and marginalised.

"Anybody from RSS rank will further divide the country". While the alliance, dominated by BJP, is in power at the Centre, its governments rule in at least 14 states out of a total 29.

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