New Delhi : The opposition parties are holding their first formal meeting here on Thursday to discuss on a common candidate to be fielded against the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance nominee in the Presidential elections in July as present incumbent Pranab Mukherjee is retiring on July 24.
West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, who held a meeting with Congress President Sonia Gandhi on the latter’s initiative, has taken the responsibility to rope in the Biju Janata Dal (BJD) of Odisha chief minister Naveen Patnaik, Bahujan Samaj Party supremo Mayawati and Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal to bring all anti-BJP parties under one banner.
Trinamool sources said Mamata shall be back in Delhi next week to play her role and she may have yet another meeting with Kejriwal to join the united bid for the President’s post without some conditions he expressed during his first meeting with Mamata after she had half an hour discussion with Sonia.
An understanding the two ladies reached is not to declare the Opposition candidate until the ruling BJP reveals the name of its nominee as both hope that Prime Minister Narendra Modi may not risk a defeat because of the NDA’s razor thin deficit and even come up for giving second term to President Pranab Mukherjee.
When Mamata suggested why not re-field Mukherjee, Sonia Gandhi is understood to have conveyed to her that Mukherjee has told the Congress leaders to look for someone else if there is contest as he can opt only if there is unanimity on him by both the government and the Opposition.
Two names doing the rounds in the opposition circles are of Mahatma Gandhi’s grandson Gopal Krishna Gandhi (72), a former West Bengal Governor, a diplomat and a former IAS officer, and former Lok Sabha Speaker Meira Kumar, also 72, a Dalit and daughter of Congress stalwart and deputy prime minister Jagjivan Ram. The CPI(M) sources, however, said no names have been so far discussed in their leaders’ interactions with Sonia.
The Nationalist Congress Party early this week ruled out its leader Sharad Pawar (76) throwing his hat in the Presidential elections. He had told Sonia Gandhi during their recent meeting that he wants to contribute in uniting all opposition parties in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections to prevent a second term to the Modi-led BJP and he sees the exercise for the presidential election only a run-up to bring all opposition and regional parties on one platform for achieving this purpose.
The Congress sources said there may be many more rounds of meetings before a name is finalised. They said the next round may be in Chennai on June 3 on DMK chief M Karunanidhi’s 93rd birthday when he is expected to give his party’s reigns to his son M K Stalin as the party president.