Pawar, Abdullah or Gopal Gandhi? Oppn parties trying to build consensus on next President

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West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee with Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) chief Sharad Pawar and Leader of Opposition in Rajya Sabha Mallikarjun Kharge leaving after addressing a press conference following an Opposition leaders' meeting ahead of the Presidential poll, at the Constitution Club of India, in New Delhi on Wednesday. (ANI Photo/ Ishant Kumar)

Mamata Banerjee’s decision to convene a meeting of opposition parties on presidential polls is being seen as a move to emerge as an anchor of the larger grouping opposed to the BJP for the 2024 Lok Sabha polls


Our Bureau
New Delhi/Kolkata

As part of the BJP’s reach out to various parties in the NDA as also in opposition for the presidential poll, Defense Minister Rajnath Singh on Wednesday spoke to Janta Dal-United leader and Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar. As per the sources, the Defense Minister who is also the Deputy Leader of BJP in Lok Sabha, spoke to Nitish Kumar this morning for building a consensus on the candidate for the upcoming presidential elections.

Sources said it was conveyed to Nitish Kumar that an attempt is being made to put up a consensus candidate. It is also being reported that Kumar has assured that his party will be supporting the candidature as proposed by the BJP-led NDA.

The discussion over the presidential election was initiated last month when Union Minister Dharmendra Pradhan had visited Bihar and met Kumar.


The Bihar Chief Minister had earlier scotched speculation about the possibility of his being a candidate and had said that he was not in the presidential race. BJP and JD-U had together won the last assembly polls in Bihar. Apart from Nitish Kumar, Union Minister Rajnath Singh has already spoken to Naveen Patnaik of Biju Janta Dal and also to the YSRC leadership.


Meanwhile, after attending the meeting called by Trinamool Congress leader and West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, Jharkhand Lok Sabha MP Vijay Hansdak on Wednesday confirmed that Banerjee mentioned two more names besides Sharad Pawar for the presidential elections. “Mamata Banerjee mentioned two more names besides Sharad Pawar, which include the names of Farooq Abdullah and Gopalkrishna Gandhi. However, on these two names, no other party leader expressed an opinion in this meeting,” said MP Vijay Hansdak.

He highlighted that NCP supremo Sharad Pawar would prepare a blueprint for the second meeting which would follow soon.


But Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) chief Sharad Pawar on Wednesday declined the Opposition leaders’ proposal to become the candidate for election of President of India. Taking to Twitter, he wrote, “I sincerely appreciate the leaders of opposition parties for suggesting my name as a candidate for the election of the President of India, at the meeting held in Delhi. However, I like to state that I have humbly declined the proposal of my candidature.”


The meeting had adopted a resolution to field a common candidate in the election slated for July 18. The meeting was attended by leaders from 17 opposition parties. It coincided with the date of notification for the presidential polls.


Sudheendra Kulkarni said opposition parties are keen on a candidate “who can truly serve as custodian of the constitution and stop Modi government from doing further damage to Indian democracy and India’s social fabric”.


Congress leader Mallikarjun Kharge, who attended the meeting of opposition parties on presidential polls on Wednesday, made an apparently cryptic remark saying he was in the process of talking to like-minded parties to field a common candidate and Trinamool Congress Mamata Banerjee convened the meeting.


Mamata Banerjee’s decision to convene a meeting of opposition parties on presidential polls is also being seen as a move to emerge as an anchor of the larger grouping opposed to the BJP for the 2024 Lok Sabha polls.


After Congress president Sonia Gandhi asked him to hold talks with opposition parties earlier this month on fielding a common candidate in presidential polls, Kharge had met NCP chief Sharad Pawar.


In his remarks at the meeting of opposition parties on Wednesday, Kharge said after the notification for the Presidential elections was released, Sonia Gandhi had asked him to speak to leaders of various parties “opposed to the divisive and destructive policies of the RSS/BJP to explore the possibility of a joint candidate”.

“I had been in touch with a number of you. Now Mamataji has convened this meeting,” he said.


He said the consensus candidate “should be someone committed to upholding the Constitution of India, its values, principles and provisions in letter and spirit, someone committed to guaranteeing that all institutions of our democracy function without fear or favor, someone committed to protecting the rights of all our citizens and preserving the secular fabric of our diverse society, someone committed to speaking out boldly against the forces of prejudice, hatred, bigotry and polarization and someone committed to being a powerful force for furthering social justice and empowerment”.

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