Ex-West Bengal governor Gopalkrishna Gandhi and former Union minister Farooq Abdullah have emerged as the Opposition’s “common candidate” for the president’s post.
Meanwhile, NCP chief Sharad Pawar on Wednesday (June 16) firmly refused an offer to run for president, stating that he “still has an active political innings to play”.
Gopalkrishna Gandhi, the grandson of Mahatma Gandhi, said it is “too premature” to comment on being fronted as a candidate by the Opposition. Gandhi had been the Opposition’s consensus candidate for the post of vice-president in 2017 but lost out to M Venkaiah Naidu.
According to media reports, sources told them that the Opposition, especially the Left, would like to project this election for the president’s post as a ‘Gandhi vs Godse’ one, and hence Gopalkrishna Gandhi would be the best bet. While Abdullah’s nomination will be viewed as the Opposition’s bold statement on standing by Kashmir. Other names will also be considered for the post, political sources told the media.
The Opposition meeting called by West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee was marred by the absence of five major parties and an altercation over a last-minute three-page statement criticising Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the government.
The parties finally reached a consensus to use four lines for their statement to the media. June 21 has been set as a deadline for pitching their own presidential candidate against the nominee of the BJP and its allies.
DMK leader TR Baalu told the media that Mamata Banerjee, Sharad Pawar and Congress leader Mallikarjun Kharge will consult with various parties to build consensus on a name. Meanwhile, after the meeting, Mamata told reporters that the Opposition must join together and discuss “the bulldozing taking place in the country”.
Media reports said that at the meeting after Sharad Pawar declined Mamata Banerjee’s offer to be the Opposition’s presidential candidate, the parties could not come up with any other name.
Sharad Pawar reportedly had the support of many parties, including Trinamool Congress, 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.
Finally, at the end, Mamata suggested the names of Gopalkrishna Gandhi and National Conference leader Farooq Abdullah. The last date for nominations for the presidential elections, which will take place on July 18, is June 29. The results will be declared on July 21.
Though Telangana CM K Chandrashekar Rao has been making a pitch to form a joint Opposition front to defeat the BJP, he stayed away from the meeting. Rao was not keen to share a common platform with the Congress.
Congress set aside its differences with Mamata and attended the meet and so did her other rival, the Left. The Akali Dal and the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) also opted out protesting the Congress’ presence. AAP said it will “consider the matter only after the Presidential candidate is declared”.