Leader of Opposition in the Rajya Sabha and Congress MP Mallikarjun Kharge on Wednesday told news agency ANI that Union Defence Minister Rajnath Singh, on behalf of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, had reached out to him asking for the Opposition candidate’s name for the upcoming President election. As the race for naming a presidential candidate for the upcoming July 18 election heats up, both sides are keeping their cards close to their chest with several names such as Mahatma Gandhi’s grandson Gopal Krishna Gandhi and NCP supremo Sharad Pawar doing the rounds from the Opposition camp.
Kharge told ANI that Singh, while asking for a name of the Opposition’s choice, was not ready to disclose any names from the NDA side. Calling it just a formality from the BJP’s end, Kharge asked whether the Modi government is ready to accept a “unanimous, non-controversial” candidate’s name proposed by the Opposition camp.
“I spoke to Rajnath Singh, he said that the PM wants to know our opinions, I asked what their proposal is, who the candidates are… he didn’t say to be in touch. If we put forward a unanimous non-controversial name, will the government accept it?” Mr Kharge told news agency ANI.
This announcement comes hours ahead of the crucial Opposition meeting called by West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee to deliberate upon a presidential candidate’s name. Several regional parties like AAP and BJP have decided to give the meeting a miss. Telangana Chief Minister K Chandrashekhar Rao’s party TRS, while opposing Congress’ participation, bailed out, thus painting the picture of a divided opposition camp ahead of the presidential polls. Setting aside its differences with the Trinamool, Congress eventually agreed to join the meeting.
Among the parties that are likely to attend the meeting are CPI(M), Sharad Pawar’s NCP, Akhilesh Yadav-led Samajwadi Party, Lalu Prasad Yadav’s RJD, Farooq Abdullah-led National Conference (NC), Arvind Kejriwal-led Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), Hemant Soren-led JMM, Uddhav Thackeray-led Shiv Sena, IUML, PDP, JDS and RLD.