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Published On: Fri, Jun 16th, 2017

Suspense continues, BJP veterans meet Sonia Gandhi to discuss the presidential poll

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RAJNATHNEW DELHI : The first meeting between the government and the Opposition over the July 17 presidential election ended inconclusively on Friday without any names being discussed by the either side.Union Ministers Rajnath Singh and M. Venkaiah Naidu met Congress president Sonia Gandhi to discuss the presidential poll as part of the ruling BJP’s bid for a consensus on the official nominee.
Mr. Singh and Mr. Naidu went to Ms. Gandhi’s 10 Janpath residence to help evolve an agreement on the crucial election. The meeting lasted for 30 minutes. Congress leader Mallikarjun Kharge was also present in the meeting, seen as the first major BJP outreach with the opposition on the significant matter.

“Government has not come forward with any name for the Presidential election and has asked if the opposition has any name for the top post,” Congress leader Ghulam Nabi Azad said after the meeting. Suspense over President Pranab Mukherjee’s likely successor continues as the ruling BJP stopped short of proposing any name for the country’s top post after two of its most senior leaders met Congress chief Sonia Gandhi on Friday.
Rajnath and Naidu are now due to meet senior Left leader Sitaram Yechury this afternoon. The Left is known to be keen on a token election, even though the Opposition does not have the numbers. The two had come to explore if there could be a consensus candidate for the July presidential election on whom both the BJP and Congress-led opposition could mutually agree.

With both the sides not revealing their cards, chances of an apolitical leader replacing Pranab Mukherjee are grim. It is highly unlikely that the ruling BJP will pick any candidate not having affiliation to it in past for the top post. It is for the first time in the Bharatiya Janata Party’s history that it has got an opportunity to get its own man or woman elected to the top post. Last time, the BJP was in power, it picked APJ Abdul Kalam to build a consensus.

Now that the party has an absolute majority in the Lok Sabha and power in about a dozen states, it appears in no mood to let the occasion go without installing a BJP man in the top seat. External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj, Uttar Pradesh Governor Ram Naik, Lok Sabha Speaker Sumitra Mahajan, and party veteran Murli Manohar Joshi are also being seen as top contenders. All of them come from the BJP background and have close links with the RSS too.

Meanwhile, Venkaiah spoke to NCP’s Sharad Pawar on Thursday. The veteran from Maharashtra responded saying he will be New Delhi in a couple of days for further talks. Andhra Pradesh chief minister N Chandrababu Naidu, whose Telugu Desam Party is an ally of the National Democratic Alliance (NDA), has assured he will go with Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s choice for the top post.

Finance Minister Arun Jaitley, too, is returning from abroad on Saturday and is expected to touch base with socialist parties over the next few days.The government’s outreach prompted the Opposition parties to not decide its candidate in its meeting on Wednesday.The notification for the July 17 polls was issued on Wednesday, beginning the nomination process for the election. The last date for filing papers is June 28. The election involves a complex voting pattern involving all parliamentarians and state legislators.
The NDA needs around 20,000 more votes to ensure the victory of its candidate and the reach out to the opposition is seen as an exercise to test if there could be a consensus and ensure a greater margin of victory.

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