In a further boost to NDA's presidential nominee Ram Nath Kovind, key ally Shiv Sena Tuesday night came on board and announced its support, ending the suspense amid strains with senior partner Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). "As the party has made a decision to support Kovind, there is no need for it to attend the meeting of opposition parties being held in New delhi", said JD-U spokesperson Rajiv Ranjan.
They also claimed that the BJP fielding Kovind has "not hurt" the unity among the 17 opposition parties.
Asked if the faction, which has 12 MPs and an equal number of MLAs, was supporting Kovind since he hailed from the dalit community, Panneerselvam said the presidential nominee has been a MP twice, besides having served as Bihar governor, and was, therefore, "experienced".
The CPI-M and other opposition parties will be meeting in Delhi on June 22 to discuss next steps on the presidential elections.
The intention behind the pick, party leaders said, was clear in Shah's stress on the two words, "poor" and "Dalit". Nitish Kumar was among the leaders who met her and JD-U leaders took part in all meetings of the grouping. Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar has broken ranks with the opposition to pledge support to Mr Kovind, who he has described as an ideal candidate for Rashtrapati Bhavan.
It remains to be seen whether BSP, which has also said that it can not oppose a Dalit candidate unless the opposition has a more popular Dalit nominee, attends the opposition meeting. Mr. Veerendrakumar also said that the Central leadership had accepted the decision of the State unit.
Left party sources today said while Biju Janata Dal chief Naveen Patnaik's decision to back Mr Kovind is a "setback" to the original plans, they would not still give up hopes. He headed BJP's Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe Morcha (1998 to 2002). He is expected to meet Kovind and Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
Efforts were on to ensure that the NCP did not stray, as the Sharad Pawar-led party held internal discussions to decide on its strategy for the presidential election.
It remains to be seen how the JD-U, BSP and Samajwadi Party, with a total vote value of over 5 per cent, vote.