The presidential polls are due to be held in July when President Pranab Mukherjee completes his term.
New Delhi: Congress president Sonia Gandhi has decided to call a meeting of all “like-minded” parties next month to explore the possibility of putting up a joint non-BJP presidential candidate. The momentum to prop up a “secular” candidate gained momentum when CPI(M) general secretary Sitaram Yechury met Mrs Gandhi soon after the Congress president had a similar meeting with Bihar CM and JD(U) chief Nitish Kumar.
Both leaders are learnt to have discussed with Mrs Gandhi the need for all Opposition parties to join hands to take on the BJP juggernaut and begin by putting up a consensual Opposition presidential candidate. Before the CPI(M) general secretary met Mrs Gandhi, the Left parties, including the CPI(M) and CPI, had met among themselves and decided to go along with a joint Opposition presidential candidate.
“The Congress president decided to take a lead in the matter after requests from both Mr Kumar and Mr Yechury,” sources said, adding the meeting was likely to be held next month. The presidential polls are due to be held in July when President Pranab Mukherjee completes his term.
Sources said while the Left was keen to field Mr Mukherjee again, other options were also being looked at such as senior JD(U) leader and Rajya Sabha member Sharad Yadav and NCP chief Sharad Pawar.
Interestingly, the Congress president had a telephonic chat with Mr Pawar on Friday morning. The NCP chief is regarded as a potential candidate as apart from stature, the Maratha strongman might also be instrumental in roping in the Shiv Sena, which is miffed with the BJP.
Sources in the Opposition parties, however, say that no names have been zeroed in as of now as it is not yet clear how many parties will come on board. “The names are being floated by the BJP to create a rift in any potential alliance,” a senior JD(U) leader claimed.
While both the Samajwadi Party and the BSP are said to be on board, no formal talks have yet begun with them.
Sources in the Congress told this newspaper that efforts were also being made to rope in the Biju Janata Dal through parties like the Trinamul Congress and JD(U). While Mr Nitish Kumar had met BJD supremo and Odisha CM Naveen Patnaik last month, West Bengal CM Mamata Banerjee met Mr Patnaik on Thursday.
The presidential election is held under the system of proportional representation through the single transferable vote, which means that the strong show by the BJP in the Assembly polls, particularly in Uttar Pradesh, where MLAs’ votes have a total value of 83,824, gives it the political leeway needed to pick its own nominee.