With the countdown to the battle for Raisina Hill having already started, leaders of “secular” parties are making a beeline to 10, Janpath, to discuss ways to counter the Modi-Shah juggernaut through a consensus candidate for India’s top constitutional post when President Pranab Mukherjee’s term ends in July. The parleys are still in a preliminary stage and it is too early for anyone to pinpoint a candidate, but according to informed sources the regional parties are keen on a candidate from among them, instead of from the Congress. Earlier this week, Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) chief Sharad Pawar called on Congress President Sonia Gandhi to discuss a joint opposition candidate for the presidential election.
Bihar Chief Minister and Janata Dal-United (JD-U) President Nitish Kumar, JD-U leader Sharad Yadav, Communist Party of India (CPI) leader D. Raja and Communist Party of India- Marxist (CPI-M) leader Sitaram Yechury have all met Gandhi. In fact, it all started after Nitish Kumar met Sonia Gandhi last week and asked her to take the lead in identifying a consensus candidate for the Presidential elections, which need to be held before July 25, the day when Mukherjee’s term expires.
“There is no other way out (but finding a common candidate). India’s Constitution is in danger, its Preamble’s ideals are being attacked. If a Sangh Parivar member becomes India’s Constitutional head, the Constitution itself will likely be reviewed, which will not be good for Indian democracy,” JD-U Spokesman K.C. Tyagi told IANS. He said parties may reach a consensus by the end of May. They would, of course, not open their cards at this stage, though a few names including those of Sharad Pawar and Sharad Yadav are alreay doing the rounds.