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As Pawar & Abdullah say no, opposition to continue hunt for presidential pick at next meet

18 opposition parties that met in Delhi Wednesday couldn’t reach an agreement on one candidate. AAP, TRS, BJD and Pawan Chamling's Sikkim Democratic Front give meeting a miss.

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New Delhi: Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) chief Sharad Pawar, National Conference leader Farooq Abdullah and former West Bengal governor Gopalkrishna Gandhi were among the names mooted for next month’s presidential elections at the opposition meeting held Wednesday, ThePrint has learnt.

The meeting was called by Trinamool Congress chief Mamata Banerjee to decide on a candidate for the 18 July election.

The 18 opposition parties that attended the meeting couldn’t reach a consensus, even though it was decided that all the parties will support just one candidate.

The decision has now been put off for the next meeting, to be held in a week’s time, a leader who attended the meeting told ThePrint on the condition of anonymity.

Four parties — the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), the Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS), the Biju Janata Dal (BJD) and Pawan Chamling’s Sikkim Democratic Front (SDF) — skipped the meeting despite being invited. 

Pawar, who chaired the meeting, declined the request to be the opposition’s presidential nominee, as did Omar Abdullah on his father Farooq’s behalf.

“The important thing is that all important opposition political parties sent in their representation, and many senior leaders also attended. Those who attended the meeting unanimously suggested Sharad Pawar’s name but he said he’s not interested,” Banerjee, who addressed a press conference after the meeting at the Constitution Club, said.

“If he agrees, everyone will give him support. If not, the name will come from political parties. We will consult with Sharadji, consult with others and then we’ll see.” 

Banerjee was flanked by Pawar, Peoples Democratic Party chief Mehbooba Mufti and Samajwadi Party president Akhilesh Yadav at the press briefing. 

Congress leaders Randeep Surjewala, Mallikarjun Kharge and Jairam Ramesh represented their party at the meeting. Janata Dal (Secular) was represented by former Prime Minister H.D. Deve Gowda and his son H.D. Kumaraswamy, the former chief minister of Karnataka. 

Omar Abdullah represented the National Conference at the meeting. 

Jayant Chaudhary, chief of the Rashtriya Lok Dal — a party that is currently SP’s alliance partner in Uttar Pradesh — also attended the meeting. 

There were also representatives from the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam, the Communist Party of India, the Communist Party of India (Marxist), the Communist Party of India (Marxist-Leninist), the Revolutionary Socialist Party, the Shiv Sena, the Jharkhand Mukti Morcha, the Rashtriya Janata Dal, and the Indian Union Muslim League.

The parties in attendance, it is learnt, unanimously tasked Banerjee, Pawar and Kharge with speaking to all the other opposition parties and convening another opposition meeting within the week — that is, by 20 or 21 June.

Also Read: Thanks to reduced UP majority, July’s Presidential election just got a little tougher for BJP

‘United opposition’ 

Banerjee told the press briefing that the opposition “stands together” but added that there was a need for opposition parties to “sit together more often”.  

“In our country, bulldozing is going on. In our democratic system all institutions are being misused politically,” she said.

Another leader who attended the meeting quoted Banerjee as speaking about the “breakdown of the relationship between the Centre and states” in her opening remarks. 

The ruling BJP was looking for an “opposition-mukt Bharat (opposition-free India)” while at the same time shielding “tainted BJP leaders were being shielded as holy cows”, the leader quoted Banerjee as having said. 

“In this context, all opposition parties have to come together today to fight against the anti-people BJP government to the end,” the source quoted Banerjee as saying. 

Speaking at the meeting, Mallikarjun Kharge, the Leader of the Opposition in the Rajya Sabha, said the Congress would play a “constructive role” in ensuring that the parties in attendance reached a consensus over a presidential candidate.

“The Congress has no particular candidate in mind. It will sit together with all of you and arrive at a candidate acceptable to all,” Kharge said.

(Edited by Uttara Ramaswamy)

Also Read: Is India’s opposition united? Conduct of Congress in London points in another direction


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