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Presidential polls: NDA committee to meet Sonia Gandhi tomorrow

LiveMint logoLiveMint 14-06-2017 Gyan Varma

New Delhi: With the election to choose the next occupant of Rashtrapati Bhavan just a month away, the Bharatiya Janata Party-led National Democratic Alliance’s (NDA) strategy of reaching out to the opposition seems to be working.

Most opposition parties are happy to wait for discussions with members of the three-man committee the NDA has formed, before they take a call on their own candidate.

On Wednesday, the committee decided it would meet with Congress president Sonia Gandhi. A meeting between her and home minister Rajnath Singh and urban development and information and broadcasting minister M. Venkaiah Naidu (two of the members of the committee; finance minister Arun Jaitley is the third) is scheduled for Friday.

Mint learns that the committee could also meet Communist Party of India (Marxist) general secretary Sitaram Yechury later.

The creation of the committee and its efforts to meet with Gandhi and Yechury are a departure from the playbook the BJP has used so far.

On Wednesday, Mint reported that at the NDA’s request, Andhra Pradesh chief minister N. Chandrababu Naidu had spoken to West Bengal chief minister and Trinamool Congress chief Mamata Banerjee about the Presidential polls.

Senior ministers of the government are also in touch with Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar, Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) chief Lalu Prasad, Praful Patel of the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) and Satish Chandra Mishra of Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP), say people with knowledge of the development.

On Wednesday, nine opposition parties met to discuss options for the polls.

“This was the first preliminary meeting and there was no discussion over names. We discussed the ruling party’s creation of a committee to engage with the opposition. In the next few days we will meet again,” said senior Congress leader Ghulam Nabi Azad.

By then, Azad added, the NDA’s representatives would have met with leaders of opposition parties and it will be easier to discuss names.

Indeed, the mood in the opposition camp seems to be to listen first and then decide.

“We had not anticipated this move of the government. Only a meeting with the ruling party will tell whether this new development will have any impact on our choice of candidate. We have not decided on any names till now,” said a BSP leader who did not wish to be named.

Analysts welcomed efforts to reach a consensus.

“Ultimately the President is the head of the state and the parties should work at unanimously choosing a credible candidate. If the parties arrive at a conclusion without a contest, it will be good for our democracy,” said Subrata Mukherjee, a New Delhi-based political analyst and former political science professor at Delhi University.

The Election Commission on Wednesday began the election process and issued a formal notification on the important dates in the process. While the last dates for filing and withdrawal of nominations is 28 June and 1 July respectively, polling, if any, will take place on 17 July and the counting of votes will be on 20 July.

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