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Presidential polls: non-NDA parties may meet to choose common candidate

LiveMint logoLiveMint 25-04-2017 Gyan Varma

New Delhi: Amid hectic lobbying for the crucial presidential elections going on over the last two weeks, the opposition is considering the idea of holding a meeting of all non-NDA (National Democratic Alliance) political parties to discuss the option of having a consensus contender for the prestigious post.

The idea was first floated by Bihar chief minister and Janata Dal (United) or JD(U) chief Nitish Kumar in a meeting with Congress president Sonia Gandhi last week. Some other opposition parties are also keen to sit across the table and formulate a strategy.

“Congress will have to take a lead if such a meeting takes place. Some of the opposition leaders have been meeting chief ministers and chief of regional parties. A final date will be worked out after we get more clarity from other opposition parties,” a senior JD(U) leader said, requesting anonymity.

A formal meeting would replace a series of one-on-one meetings between opposition leaders. In the last two weeks, Communist Party of India (Marxist) or CPM general secretary Sitaram Yechury and JD(U) chief Nitish Kumar have separately met Gandhi. Trinamool Congress chief and West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee has also held separate meetings with Biju Janata Dal supremo Naveen Patnaik and Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) chief Sharad Pawar.

The Congress party is, however, treading carefully on the issue.

“There is a general consensus among opposition parties that we should have a contender to the candidate that the NDA puts up in presidential polls. We have been discussing it informally but a more cohesive approach amongst opposition parties is needed and so a suggestion for a meeting has been made. We haven’t decided on it yet because we want to take a careful stock of the situation,” a senior Congress leader said, requesting anonymity.

The election for the post of President is due in July, and for the vice-president’s post in August. The total strength of the electoral college that elects the president is 1,098,882 votes. In 2012, President Pranab Mukherjee was elected after he secured 7.13 lakh votes.

“We are willing to work with secular opposition parties to put a consensus candidate to fight communal forces and also counter the BJP. The recent state assembly elections have strengthened the party and it is important to counter them. We are exploring the possibility of fielding a common candidate that is acceptable by all parties,” said a senior leader of the CPM, who did not wish to be named.

The CPM has also held talks with other members of the Left front, NCP and Rashtriya Janata Dal chief Lalu Yadav.

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