New Delhi: The ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) on Monday announced Bihar governor Ram Nath Kovind as its presidential candidate. A politically significant choice, Kovind, a senior Dalit leader of the party, belongs to Uttar Pradesh and has been a two-time Rajya Sabha member.

To ensure consensus over his candidature, Prime Minister Narendra Modi spoke on the phone with Congress president Sonia Gandhi and former prime minister Manmohan Singh to communicate BJP’s choice to them.

BJP president Amit Shah, while holding a press conference on Monday, said that the ruling party has reached out to all its allies, including Shiv Sena, and Kovind will be NDA’s choice for the country’s top post.

Ram Nath Kovind , 71, has been the Bihar governor since August 2015

“He (Kovind) has been connected with the poor. Having being born in a poor household, with a Dalit background he has managed to reach such a position and today the BJP has decided his name. He will be a candidate for the NDA. Before deciding the name, we have held discussions with various political parties. PM himself spoke to Congress President Sonia Gandhi and former PM Manmohan Singh. We have informed everyone of the name today," Shah told reporters, after a meeting of the party’s parliamentary board, its top decision making body.

Kovind, 71, has been the Bihar governor since August 2015. He has been an advocate by profession and has practised both in Delhi high court and Supreme Court. He has served as the president of the Dalit wing of the BJP.

Kovind is likely to file his nomination on 23 June.

“BJP and NDA are hopeful that the fighting for the cause of Dalits and being born in a poor family, he has managed to reach such a high position in public life and that he will be chosen with full consensus," Shah told reporters, adding that senior leaders will speak to opposition leaders in the coming days to hold discussions over presidential polls.

“Ram Nath Kovind, a farmer’s son, comes from a humble background. He devoted his life to public service & worked for poor & marginalised. With his illustrious background in the legal arena, Kovind’s knowledge and understanding of the Constitution will benefit the nation," Prime Minister Narendra Modi posted on Twitter after the announcement.

Modi said that as President, Kovind will continue to be a strong voice for the poor, downtrodden and marginalised.

The Congress party refused to comment on the announcement but expressed displeasure over NDA’s nomination of the Presidential candidate without discussing with opposition parties.

“The proposed candidate from the NDA, the Congress party doesn’t want to comment on it at the moment. We had hoped that there would be some names that would be discussed in an attempt to reach consensus before a name was announced. They (BJP) informed leaders and former PM Manmohan Singh of the name that has been decided. We didn’t expect this. The exercise they undertook seems to be a formality," senior Congress leader Ghulam Nabi Azad said while speaking to reporters.

The opposition parties are set to meet on 22 June to decide the future course of action.

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