Leaders of at least nine non-NDA parties are part of the sub-group constituted to arrive at a consensus opposition candidate for the July 17 presidential poll. According to sources, the sub-group will be meeting next week to start deliberations among the opposition parties on the crucial poll. They said Leader of Opposition in Rajya Sabha Ghulam Nabi Azad, JD(U) leader Sharad Yadav and RJD supremo Lalu Prasad aong others are part of the sub-group. The group would comprise leaders of prominent parties like Left, TMC, Samajwadi Party and Bahujan Samaj Party besides the JD(U), RJD, NCP and DMK as well as the main opposition party-the Congress. The sources said the possible names for the opposition candidate will only emerge after June 15 i.e. after a formal notification will be issued by the Election Commission on June 14. Congress president Sonia Gandhi is instrumental in forming this panel after she hosted a luncheon for the opposition leaders on May 26 which was attended by leaders of 17 parties.
“It was suggested at the May 26 luncheon that a sub-group of non-NDA parties be formed who could deliberate and bring consensus among the opposition parties on the matter,” said a senior leader. It was also stated at the luncheon that as per the tradition, the ruling party should take the lead in suggesting a consensual candidate for the President’s post. In case it does not do so, the opposition parties will come out with its own candidate after reaching at a consensus among the opposition ranks, the sources said. With the ruling BJP yet to initiate efforts for a consensual presidential nominee, the Congress has said the non-NDA parties will make every possible attempt to find “the best person” for India and it has many “deserving” candidates. Congress spokesperson Abhishek Singhvi said the opposition has made it clear that the BJP-led NDA cannot take the country for granted on the issue, but he refused to come out with any specific name.
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The CPI(M), on its part, said that it was in discussion with other parties for a person with “impeccable secular credentials who can discharge the responsibility as a custodian of the Constitution.” A number of leaders of opposition parties had already met Sonia Gandhi last month after she stepped up discussions for forging opposition unity on the issue. Gandhi has held parleys with West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar, DMK leader M K Stalin, JD(U) leader Sharad Yadav, Samajwadi Party’s Mulayam Singh Yadav and RJD’s Lalu Prasad, among others.
The Congress chief has been at the forefront of efforts to evolve a consensus among opposition parties for putting up candidates who are “acceptable to the country” for the posts of president and vice president. The names of former West Bengal Governor Gopal Krishan Gandhi and former Speaker Meira Kumar have so far emerged as the Opposition’s choices for the top post. The presidential election will be held on July 17 and the counting of votes is slated for July 20. The tenure of incumbent President Pranab Mukherjee ends on July 24.