The statement of the BJP leader Sanjay Jaiswal may be an attempt to destabilise the Nitish Kumar-led Bihar government by creating confusion among the leaders of Mahagathbandhan.
Bihar's ruling JD-U's parting of ways with the opposition parties on Presidential candidate was not discussed at their Thursday meeting but those present expressed dismay over its decision to support NDA's Ram Nath Kovind, calling it "unfortunate".
According to informed sources, no discussion was held on JD-U's exit from opposition ranks. However, the opposition leaders said "it was unfortunate that one of our allies has gone to the National Democratic Alliance camp in the July 17 Presidential election."
"It is unfortunate that the Janata Dal-United took this stand. This was the sense of the house," said a leader present at the meeting.
Terming the opposition's Presidential candidate Meira Kumar as "Dalit ki Beti", Rashtriya Janata Dal chief Lalu Prasad on Thursday said the JD-U's decision to support NDA nominee Ram Nath Kovind was a "historic blunder" and called for a review.
"Today, I am appealing to (Bihar Chief Minister) Nitish Kumar to reconsider his decision and support the daughter of Bihar," Lalu Prasad told reporters after Meira Kumar was fielded after a meeting of 17 opposition parties led by the Congress.
According to informed sources, Gandhi, who chaired the meeting of the opposition parties, first asked Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) leader Sharad Pawar to speak.
Pawar proposed three names — Meira Kumar, former Maharashtra Chief Minister Sushil Kumar Shinde and Bhalchandra Mungekar — all Dalit leaders – calling them "prominent personalities".
Pawar was keen on Shinde but the "sense of the gathering" ultimately went with Meira Kumar.
According to sources, Pawar was trying to delay the announcement by one day. "Pawar suggested the name should be announced tomorrow (Friday) at 2 p.m., after more consultations. Everybody else said it should be done on Thursday itself.
All these parties have signed the nomination form.
Informed sources said Congress leader Ghulam Nabi Azad and Ahmed Patel went to Sharad Pawar's residence here, after he was reluctant to attend the opposition meeting. The sources said only when the Congress leaders assured him of "bigger role in the 2019 general elections" and CPI-M leader Sitaram Yechury visited him that he agreed to come.
According to sources, Meira Kumar's name was almost decided on Wednesday afternoon after Congress President Sonia Gandhi spoke to West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee and was seconded by Bahujan Samaj Party chief Mayawati.
The Left parties did suggest Prakash Ambedkar's name but there no positive response.
"We proposed the name earlier. But on Thursday we said whatever is the consensus, we are ready to go with it. We did not insist on a discussion on this point," Communist Party of India General Secretary S. Sudhakar Reddy said.
CPI-Marxist General Secretary Sitaram Yechury earlier told reporters: "Sharad Pawar started the meeting with a list of names under consideration. About each one of them, there was no objection on any ground by anybody. That included Gopalkrishna Gandhi, and Prakash Ambedkar – these two names which I had suggested."
"Gopalkrishna Gandhi called up the day the NDA nominee was announced to say that 'now you'll have to consider differently'. So, he was not in the race," Yechury said.
"From among Meira Kumar, Bhalchandra Mungekar, Prakash Ambedkar and Shinde, everyone agreed on Meira Kumar's name without any reservation whatsoever. She is an unanimous choice of the 17 parties," he added.