New Delhi: As the date of the presidential election gets near, the Opposition camp is gearing up to put up a strong joint candidate. Congress president Sonia Gandhi has assigned the task of finding a common candidate to senior party leader and Leader of the Opposition in Rajya Sabha Mallikarjun Kharge.
The Congress has reportedly conveyed its support for Sharad Pawar as President. Mr Kharge met Mr Pawar last Thursday, with a message from Mrs Sonia Gandhi. Mr Pawar, one of India's senior-most politicians, has been credited with making and breaking many alliances and coalition governments. There is, however, no response yet from Mr Pawar himself or his Nationalist Congress Party, which is an ally of the Congress in the Maha Vikas Aghadi government in Maharashtra.
The Congress has also touched base with West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee, who has called an Opposition meeting at New Delhi’s Constitution Club on Wednesday to discuss a joint strategy for the presidential election. Mr Kharge has also had initial consultations with the leaders of the DMK, CPI, CPI(M) and the Aam Aadmi Party for putting up a joint Opposition candidate. Reports indicate that the AAP leaders have also met Mr Pawar, indicating their support. Insiders claim that Maharashtra chief minister and Shiv Sena boss Uddhav Thackeray will also support Mr Pawar if he agrees to contest the presidential polls. Mr Kharge had also met the Maharashtra CM in Mumbai regarding the presidential polls.
While the BJP has not announced a candidate, the party has authorised party president J.P. Nadda and defence minister Rajnath Singh to hold talks with NDA members and Opposition parties to arrive at a consensus on a presidential candidate if possible. The presidential election is due to be held on July 18, and the counting will take place on July 21. The term of President Ram Nath Kovind ends on July 24. The BJP has an edge as the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) has 48 per cent of the votes in the electoral college and it expected some other parties not aligned with the Congress to support the NDA candidate. The Opposition parties are hoping to put up a united front in the contest. At the moment, both the camps are keeping their cards close to their chest.