New Delhi: Both the ruling NDA and the 17-party conglomerate of Opposition parties kept their cards close to their chest on the presidential election Friday. Home minister Rajnath Singh and I&B minister M. Venkaiah Naidu began their outreach programme by meeting Congress president Sonia Gandhi and CPM general secretary Sitaram Yechury, but no consensus was evolved as the ruling side didn’t give any names.
The two Central ministers also met the CPI’s D. Raja later to discuss the issue. While the Opposition parties will meet again on June 21 to decide their future course of action, the BJP core group is likely to meet a day earlier, June 20, to discuss the name of their candidate.
Speculation was rife that the NDA candidate would file the nomination on June 23. Significantly, Mr Singh and Mr Naidu also met veteran BJP leaders L.K. Advani and Murli Manohar Joshi on Friday, both of whose names had earlier done the rounds as possible NDA presidential candidates.
After the meeting with Mr Naidu and Mr Singh, CPM general secretary Sitaram Yechury said it was a futile exercise and a mere “public relations” stunt as the ruling side had in fact asked the two Opposition parties if they had any names.
“We reiterate that we want someone with impeccable secular credentials to grace the highest office of the Indian republic,” Mr Yechury added.
Congress Rajya Sabha leader Ghulam Nabi Azad, who along with Mallikarjun Kharge was present at the two ministers’ meeting with Mrs Gandhi, said there was no question of a consensus as of now as no names had been given by the ruling BJP.
Mr Naidu, meanwhile, also spoke to Samajwadi patriarch Mulayam Singh Yadav and Bahujan Samaj Party leader Satish Chandra Mishra.
Sources said the government’s refusal to give any names had made the Opposition determined to contest. Former West Bengal governor Gopalkrishna Gandhi, who has emerged as the Opposition camp’s frontrunner, is said to have called up a host of Opposition leaders seeking their support.
Mr Gandhi called Delhi CM Arvind Kejriwal to seek his support, and sources said the AAP leader had promised his party’s support.
Sources said that top Opposition leaders, including NCP supremo Sharad Pawar, Bihar CM and JD(U) chief Nitish Kumar and West Bengal CM Mamata Banerjee are likely to hold parleys over the weekend and on June 21 the name of the Opposition candidate would be announced....