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Presidential election: NDA tests opposition unity with overture to Mamata Banerjee

LiveMint logoLiveMint 13-06-2017 Gyan Varma

New Delhi: Andhra Pradesh chief minister N. Chandrababu Naidu spoke to Trinamool Congress (TMC) chief and West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee last week about the July Presidential election, said senior leaders of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) of which Naidu’s Telugu Desam Party is a part.

The overture is significant because it comes amidst the first signs of a united opposition, and also because any possible thaw in the relations between Banerjee and the NDA could help in smoother functioning of Parliament in the coming monsoon session.

Senior leaders of the NDA said Naidu was requested to speak to Banerjee by senior leaders of the BJP and that an “initial” conversation had happened between the two.

The NDA is counting on the support of regional parties for its candidate, having already secured the backing of the Telangana Rashtriya Samiti (TRS) and YSR Congress.

The names of potential candidates have not been discussed so far, one of the NDA leaders mentioned above said.

Naidu will try and find out “what kind of candidate” Banerjee is willing to support, this person added. “Discussion on names will be in the later stages,” the leader added.

After the BJP and the Indian National Congress, the two most important parties as far as the Presidential polls are concerned are the TMC and the Janata Dal (United).

On Monday, the BJP set up a panel comprising home minister Rajnath Singh, finance minister Arun Jaitley and urban development minister M. Venkaiah Naidu to reach out to all political parties to discuss the possibility of fielding a consensus candidate to replace President Pranab Mukherjee in the 17 July election.

“If we don’t speak to everyone, then what is the meaning of consensus? We will speak to all political parties,” Venkaiah Naidu told reporters on Tuesday.

A 10-member opposition group, formed to come up with a joint candidate, is set to hold its first meeting on Wednesday.

According to a senior leader of the opposition, the meeting is being called by the Congress at Parliament House.

“Right now we are looking at what kind of a candidate to field from the opposition. We have maintained that if the government fields a consensus candidate, acceptable to all, we will support but in the meanwhile we have to go ahead with our deliberations,” this person added.

There have been reports that the NDA could field a candidate belonging to an indigenous tribe.

Pretika Khanna & Anuja contributed to the story.

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