Farooq Abdullah declines to be Prez candidate; next Opposition meet in Mumbai

I've a lot more active politics ahead of me & look forward to making a positive contribution in the service of J&K & the country. I’m grateful to Mamata didi for proposing my name. I’m also grateful to all the senior leaders who offered me their support, said NC chief Farooq Abdullah

Declining the offer, a grateful Farooq Abdullah said: "I believe that Jammu and Kashmir is passing through a critical juncture and my efforts are required to help navigate these uncertain times". PTI file pic

Confusion continues to reign over the choice of a consensus presidential candidate to be fronted by the Opposition, as National Conference chief Farooq Abdullah on Saturday (June 18) too has politely declined the offer.

West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee had suggested Abdullah’s name as the joint Opposition candidate for the upcoming presidential polls on July 18, after NCP supremo Sharad Pawar had turned down the offer to her, saying he had still many years in active politics.

On Saturday, NC chief Farooq Abdullah was quoted as saying by ANI: “I withdraw my name from consideration as a possible joint opposition candidate for the President of India. I believe that Jammu and Kashmir is passing through a critical juncture and my efforts are required to help navigate these uncertain times.”

In a statement released by his party, the Lok Sabha MP said he held discussions with NC senior colleagues and his family about this “unexpected” development, after Banerjee proposed his name as the Opposition nominee.

Also read: Presidential polls: Mamata suggests two names in ‘Gandhi vs Godse’ battle

“I’ve a lot more active politics ahead of me & look forward to making a positive contribution in the service of J&K & the country. I’m grateful to Mamata didi for proposing my name. I’m also grateful to all the senior leaders who offered me their support”, said NC chief Farooq Abdullah.

Meanwhile, former Karnataka chief minister HD Kumaraswamy clarified that his 89-year-old father, HD Deve Gowda is not in the race to be named as a candidate for the president’s post.

“No, there is no question of Deve Gowda’s name in the race (for Presidency), he has no interest in it. His desire is to see JD(S) forming an independent government in Karnataka during his lifetime, that’s his aim,” he told the media, replying to a question on whether Gowda would be a likely candidate for Presidential polls.

Hunt for a joint Opposition candidate for President

After Mamata Banerjee invited non-BJP parties to an Opposition meet on June 15 to select a consensus candidate for the upcoming presidential polls on June 29, she picked NCP chief Sharad Pawar as the likely choice. She even went straight to his residence in New Delhi after she had landed in the capital for the Opposition meet. However, he declined the offer stating that he still has an active innings to play.

Besides TMC, Sharad Pawar reportedly had the support of many parties, including Left, the Congress and the Shiv Sena. Mamata told reporters that if Sharad Pawar agreed, everybody will give him support. “But, Pawar-ji does not agree, we will discuss,” she added.

Also read: Presidential polls: 17 parties attend Mamata’s mega meet; five skip

After Sharad Pawar declined, the political parties who had gathered at the meeting could not come up with any other name. In the end, Mamata suggested two names: Ex-West Bengal governor Gopalkrishna Gandhi and former Union minister Farooq Abdullah.

Farooq Abdullah has now backed out of the race, which now leaves just Gopalkrishna Gandhi. The former West Bengal governor had been the Opposition’s consensus candidate for the post of vice-president in 2017 but lost out to M Venkaiah Naidu. Political parties are keen on Gandhi, especially the Left, because they would like to project this election for the president’s post as a ‘Gandhi vs Godse’ one.

Though Gandhi’s name has been suggested at that meeting, the Opposition parties are yet to build a consensus for a joint candidate against NDA’s nominee, who is also not declared so far.

Opposition meet on June 20-21 in Mumbai

Meanwhile, the next meeting of the leaders of the Opposition parties to pick a consensus candidate for the Presidential election is likely to be held on June 20-21. The meeting will be held by Sharad Pawar in Mumbai, according to PTI, who quoted senior leaders. They also said that the parties have decided to select a common Opposition candidate who will “uphold the democratic ethos of the country”.

The last date for nominations for the presidential elections is June 29. The results will be declared on July 21.

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