NEW DELHI: At a seemingly show of an anti-BJP front, in a throwback to the 2019 Lok Sabha polls and in its run-up when the regional giants had stitched up a combine at the swearing-in of the JDS-Congress-BSP alliance in Karnataka, Mamata Banerjee convinced a galaxy of Opposition leaders to propose Gopalkrishna Gandhi, Mahatma Gandhi’s grandson, and Farooq Abdulla, Jammu and Kashmir National Conference patriarch for the upcoming Presidential polls.
In all 17 opposition parties – namely Congress, Rashtriya Janata Dal, Communist Party of India (Marxist), Communist Party of India, Shiv Sena, Jammu & Kashmir National Conference, Nationalist Congress Party, Janata Dal (Secular), Rashtriya Janata Dal, Jammu and Kashmir Peoples Democratic Party, Samajwadi Party, Revolutionary Socialist Party, Communist Party of India (Marxist–Leninist), Rashtriya Lok Dal, Jharkhand Mukti Morcha and Indian Union Muslim League along with Trinamool Congress – took part in the meeting held at the Constitution Club in the national capital.
Sources told The New Indian that top BJP leader and Union defence minister Rajnath Singh called Banerjee, Congress’ Mallikarjun Kharge and Akhilesh Yadav today to know the opposition’s Presidential candidate.
When asked if the government has proposed any names for Presidential candidates, the opposition leaders said, “We can comment only after knowing names suggested by the government.”
Sources also said that while opposition parties are keen on NCP boss Sharad Pawar as their candidate in the Presidential election, the veteran leader had declined the proposal.
Talking to the media after the meet, Pawar said that the opposition had agreed to field a common candidate for the election.
“We have decided to field a common candidate who can truly serve as the custodian of the constitution and stop the Modi government from doing further damage to Indian democracy and India’s social fabric,” Pawar said.
“We the opposition parties have decided that there will be one presidential candidate. Today it’s the beginning and after so many months the Opposition sat together,” the NCP boss added.
Speaking at the meet, senior Congress leader Mallikarjun Kharge said, “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,” the Leader of Opposition in Rajya Sabha said.
However, Aam Aadmi Party, Telangana Rashtra Samithi, Biju Janata Dal and Shiromani Akali Dal did not participate in the meeting which put a big question mark on opposition unity.
Banerjee, who is at the forefront to forge a united opposition, held a United India Rally before the 2019 Lok Sabha elections in Kolkata. The rally was attended by several opposition leaders including Pawar and SP chief Akhilesh Yadav.
Congress joining the all-opposition party meeting holds a special significance as it breaks the ongoing coldness between the two parties.
The Election Commission of India had earlier announced that the 16th Presidential election will be held on July 18. The counting will be held on July 21. The official term of current President Ram Nath Kovind ends on July 24.