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Presidential Polls - PM Modi's Raisina masterstroke; Opposition spilt and stumped?

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The government formally began its outreach with the opposition on the presidential election with senior ministers Rajnath Singh and M. Venkaiah Naidu meeting Congress President Sonia Gandhi, but placed no name of its nominee.

Bharatiya Janata Party President Amit Shah announced the name of Kovind, 71, after a almost two-hour meeting of the BJP parliamentary board attended by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and others, ending all suspense about the NDA's candidature for the top constitutional post. We were expecting them to suggest a name.

BJP chief Shah said the party's parliamentary board went through a long list of potential candidates before choosing Kovind, who was its MP in the Rajya Sabha for two terms and headed its Dalit Morcha.

Discussing whether Nitish Kumar would attend the 22 June meeting, Azad said he had himself called the Bihar chief minister who had assured him that there would be somebody from his Janata Dal-United.

According to reports, the BJP committee is holding discussions with all parties as they are trying to finalise a consensus candidate for presidential poll before Prime Minister Modi departs for foreign tour on June 24.

The BJP is to convey to the opposition and other parties the name of its choice of presidential candidate in the final round of talks with them next week, its leaders said.

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As the BJP began reaching out to the Opposition ostensibly to build a consensus on the Presidential elections, at least one party Friday bluntly told the two top ministers when they came to meet them that the ruling alliance should not field a "hardcore" (read RSS) person for the office. The Maharashtrian party may have also wanted to test the BJP's sincerity to the cause of Hindutva, for it has said that Bhagwat will be a good choice to turn India into a Hindu rashtra (nation).

Sources said Pawar told Naidu that he would be in Delhi for the next couple of days for the talks, while Chandrababu Naidu told him that his party would stand by the Prime Minister's decision on the issue. "He sought the support of the BJD in this regard", Panaik told reporters here. "But now that they have named a Dalit leader, the equations are altogether different now", the source added.

It could be hard for parties like the DMK, who often chant the social justice mantra, to oppose a Dalit. "The names that we are discussing are in public domain".

With almost 23,000 votes in the electoral college for presidential election, TRS is considered as a kingmaker along with AIADMK and the BJD.

While making it nearly impossible for the BJD to object to her candidature, it would have given the BJP brownie points with Odisha's large tribal, even if diverse, population. Later he met CPI General Secretary S. Sudhakar Reddy.

A three-member BJP Ministerial team was set up by party president Amit Shah. We want their consensus.

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