Sonia Gandhi hosts lunch for opposition today, presidential elections on menu3 min read . Updated: 25 May 2017, 10:15 PM IST
Congress is keen on a joint candidate for the presidential elections, but opposition parties want to take a call after the BJP-led government names its candidate
New Delhi: Even as the Congress makes a fresh bid on Friday to bring together like-minded opposition parties to field a joint presidential candidate, regional political outfits are not responding to the overtures as yet.
Congress president Sonia Gandhi is hosting a luncheon meeting of key opposition parties on Friday to brainstorm over the possibility of fielding a joint candidate. The date is significant because its also marks the third anniversary of the National Democratic Alliance (NDA).
Ostensibly, regional political parties are waiting for the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) to tip its hand by making public its candidate.
“There is no doubt that the opposition parties are of the opinion that they should come together and field a candidate for the presidential elections. But a lot will depend on the choice of the government. If the name of a tribal or a Dalit is forwarded by the government, many opposition parties will find it difficult to oppose," said a leader of Jharkhand Mukti Morcha who is based in Ranchi.
At the same time a section of opposition leaders have reached out to the BJP to seek a consensus choice as the president.
“The government has so far not reached out to any opposition party formally or informally. The selection of president should by consensus and not by confrontation. The government must speak to opposition parties, especially Congress," said a senior leader of the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP).
NCP chief Sharad Pawar is expected to attend the lunch meeting called by the Congress president.
The problem for the opposition parties is that if NDA wins over some regional parties that are not aligned with the Congress, then it is game over.
To complicate things further for the opposition, alliance partners Janata Dal (United), or JD(U), and Lalu Prasad’s Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) are at loggerheads over the choice of the presidential candidate. While JD(U) is of the opinion that President Pranab Mukherjee should get a second term, RJD is opposed to the suggestion and wants the Congress to take a final call.
On Thursday, West Bengal chief minister and Trinamool Congress chief Mamata Banerjee met Prime Minister Narendra Modi. She told reporters later that the presidential election did not figure at the meeting, which was on development-related issues.
“A.P.J. Abdul Kalam was consensus candidate once; if they (government) get the consensus candidate, that will be very good; we will be happy to see that," she told reporters when asked about the presidential election.
The Congress is of the opinion that the government fielding a consensus candidate would be an ‘ideal situation’ in which all political parties could extend support to one candidate. In the event of the government fielding a pro-BJP candidate, the Congress will put up a rival to register its protest.
“In such a case we will field a candidate irrespective of whether any opposition party stands with us or not. It is a fight of symbolism but that is what is important here. We cannot support a candidate of exactly opposite our ideology and so a contest in that case will be unavoidable," a senior Congress leader and former Union minister said, requesting anonymity.
“There is no doubt that as of now, the numbers seem to be in the favour of NDA. The best option is that the government reaches out to the opposition to get consensus on its candidate. However, in its absence, the opposition could field a candidate of its own and then the fight will go beyond symbolism because all will depend on who is a more acceptable and strong candidate," Ramesh Dixit, a Lucknow-based political analyst, said.