A majority of opposition parties today agreed to field a common candidate against the NDA in the forthcoming presidential election a day after Sharad Pawar declined West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee’s offer to him to contest the poll as the coalition candidate. Addressing a press conference, the Trinamool Congress chief, who had convened the joint conference of political parties, said, “Several parties were here today. We have decided we will choose only one consensus candidate. Everybody will give this candidate our support.” “We will consult with others. This is a good beginning. We sat together after several months, and we will do it again,” Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee said.
At the meeting, opposition leaders had urged NCP supremo Sharad Pawar to be the joint opposition candidate for the election following Mamata Banerjee’s suggestion. However, he once again declined the offer.
Sharad Pawar reportedly said that standing for president was virtually retirement from active politics, a field that he wishes to continue in.
NK Premchandran of the RSP said that Mamata Banerjee suggested the names of Farooq Abdullah and Gopalkrishna Gandhi as possible opposition candidates after that.
Leaders of the INC, Samajwadi Party, NCP, DMK, RJD and communist parties attended the over two-hour-long meeting called by the Trinamool Congress chief while the AAP, SAD, AIMIM, TRS and Odisha’s ruling BJD skipped it.
It may be noted in this regard that TRS‘s head and Telangana Chief Minister K Chandrashekar Rao has been trying to expand his party’s footprint across the nation by transforming his party from the Telangana Rashtra Samithi to Bharat Rashtra Samithi — decades after NT Rama Rao had tried to graduate from his Telugu Desam Party to Bharat Desam Party but later dropped the idea.
The TRS said there was “no question of sharing any platform with the Congress.” The party said the INC had been invited despite its objections and lashed out at its leader Rahul Gandhi. It also accused the INC of “ganging up with the BJP” in Telangana, especially in the recent by-polls.
The AIMIM headed by Asaduddin Owaisi pitches his party in any given election, saying that the so-called secular parties have given Muslims a raw deal and voters from the community must try his party for a change.
The BJD, despite technically being an opposition party, has had a track record of cooperating with the Narendra Modi government on crucial issues.
If the AAP, which has seized power in Punjab recently is roped in by the opposition coalition, its rival, the Sukhbir Singh Badal-headed SAD, which Arvind Kejriwal never tires of branding as a corrupt party led by a corrupt family, will stay away.
However, the SAD and the AAP opted out, citing a different reason. They objected to the presence of the INC. The AAP said it would “consider the matter only after the presidential candidate is declared”.
Nevertheless, leaders of Shiv Sena, CPI, CPI(M), CPI(ML), National Conference, PDP, JD(S), RSP, IUML, RLD and the JMM were among those who attended the meeting. The election would be held on 18 July.
The politicians who attended the meeting included Sharad Pawar and Praful Patel of the NCP, Mallikarjun Kharge, Jairam Ramesh and Randeep Surjewala of the Congress, HD Deve Gowda and HD Kumaraswamy of the JD(S), Akhilesh Yadav of the SP, Mehbooba Mufti of the PDP and Omar Abdullah of the National Conference.
Last week, Mamata Banerjee had invited leaders of 22 political parties, including seven chief ministers, to the Delhi meeting to produce a “confluence of opposition voices” for the 18 July election.