Opposition scrambles to field joint Prez candidate

Opposition leaders will again meet on June 21 to finalise their common candidate for the President’s post

Update: 2022-06-15 20:18 GMT
Samajwadi Party President Akhilesh Yadav, PDP Chief Mehbooba Mufti, West Bengal Chief Minister and TMC Chief Mamata Banerjee, NCP Chief Sharad Pawar, Congress leader Mallikarjun Kharge and DMK leader T. R. Baalu during a press conference after the opposition leaders' meeting regarding upcoming Presidential elections, in New Delhi, Wednesday, June 15, 2022. (PTI Photo)

New Delhi: Several Opposition parties held consultations in New Delhi Wednesday, at the initiative of West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee, to evolve a consensus on a joint candidate for next month’s presidential election. Insiders claimed after NCP supremo Sharad Pawar refused to be the candidate, the names of former J&K chief minister and National Conference chief Farooq Abdullah and Mahatma Gandhi’s grandson and former diplomat Gopalkrishna Gandhi cropped up. But some Opposition leaders who were present said that these names were floated “in passing” and “not seriously”. In the last election held in 2017, Mr Gandhi had unsuccessfully contested for the vice-president’s post. It was learnt that the Opposition leaders will again meet on June 21 to finalise their common candidate for the President’s post. This meeting is likely to be held in Mumbai and will be convened by Mr Pawar.

Former Prime Minister H.D. Deve Gowda, NCP supremo Sharad Pawar, Congress leaders Mallikarjun Kharge, Jairam Ramesh and Randeep Singh Surjewala, PDP chief Mehbooba Mufti, NC’s Omar Abdullah, Samajwadi Party president Akhilesh Yadav DMK’s T.R. Balu, Shiv Sena’s Priyanka Chaturvedi, RJD leaders Manoj Jha and some others attended the meeting held at New Delhi’s Constitution Club to discuss possible common Opposition candidates. The notable absentees at the meeting were the Aam Aadmi Party, Telangana Rashtra Samiti, YSR Congress, Akali Dal, Biju Janata Dal and Sikkim Democratic Front of Mr Pawan Kumar Chamling. Around 17 parties attended the meeting called by the West Bengal CM.

The meeting passed a resolution to field a common candidate in the next presidential poll. “In the forthcoming presidential election which is being held on the 75th anniversary of India’s Independence, we have decided to field a common candidate who can truly serve as a custodian of the Constitution and stop the Narendra Modi government from doing any further damage to Indian democracy and India's social fabric,” the resolution said.

Addressing the press, Ms Banerjee said: “One or two parties did not attend the meeting and they must have their reasons. All the members in the meeting unanimously backed Sharad Pawar’s name. If Mr Pawar is ready, it is okay. If not, then other names will come from the political parties. It (name) will be discussed and decided. Today is the beginning and I think after so many months, we sat together and we will do it again (given) the bulldozing going on in the country’s democratic system. Every institution is (being) totally misused politically and it is necessary that we must sit together.”

Congress’ Mallikarjun Kharge, Leader of the Opposition in the Rajya Sabha, said: “The Congress Party will play a constructive role in ensuring that the parties assembled here this afternoon arrive at a consensus candidate in the next few days. Let us be proactive and not be reactive. The Congress Party has no particular candidate in mind. It will sit together with all of you and arrive at a candidate acceptable to all.” At the next meeting, the parties are likely to come up with the names of leaders who could be widely acceptable, some leaders said.

The decision by some key regional parties like the BJD, TRS and AAP to skip Wednesday’s meeting called by Ms Banerjee has cheered the ruling BJP as it believes that their absence has only highlighted the fault-lines and one-upmanship among its rivals.

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