Congress Says No Proposal Received From BJP for Meeting on Presidential Candidate

While the BJP had said its three-member committee will meet the Congress on Friday to select a consensus presidential candidate, Congress insists it has not received any formal proposal yet.

Congress president, Sonia Gandhi. Credit: PTI/File Photo

Congress president, Sonia Gandhi. Credit: PTI/File Photo

New Delhi: BJP president Amit Shah on Monday constituted a three-member committee that will consult political parties – including the opposition – to select a consensus candidate for the presidential poll. The committee, comprising senior Union ministers Rajnath Singh, Arun Jaitley and M. Venkaiah Naidu, was formed to hold deliberations with the BJP’s allies and opposition parties for the July 17 presidential election. The BJP also proposed that the committee would be meeting Congress president Sonia Gandhi on Friday. However, sources in the Congress on Thursday evening told The Wire that they were not aware of any such proposal.

“The BJP has a habit of going to town with the media first and then making formal proposals and this appears to be just another case in that series,” a Congress spokesperson said.

Stating that the party leaders were not aware of any such proposal, the source said it would have been in the fitness of things had the BJP first sent a formal proposal.

As the Election Commission, earlier this week, issued a notification that the process of filing nominations for the July 17 presidential poll has begun, the ruling National Democratic Alliance (NDA) has intensified its outreach through the committee and is trying to impress upon the opposition to find a “mutually acceptable” presidential candidate.

However, the tone and tenor of the NDA is far from what the opposition would prefer it to be. Naidu had recently stated that while “everything will be done in the true spirit of democracy” and that it was necessary for the other parties to “respect the mandate of the people which is with us”.

The BJP has started making overtures to other political parties. Naidu is reported to have reached out to the CPI(M), NCP and BSP as the BJP wants to finalise its candidate to file the nomination for the presidential poll before Prime Minister Narendra Modi leaves for his US tour on June 24.

Incidentally, word got out from the BJP that Naidu and Singh would be meeting Sonia and CPI(M) general secretary Sitaram Yechury to push ahead with their plans on Friday while Singh would be meeting Trinamool Congress chief Mamata Banerjee. The party has already spoken to Pattali Makkah Katchi (PMK) leader, Anbumani Ramadoss and All India NR Congress leader, N Rangaswamy regarding its plans.

But Congress leaders are wary of the BJP’s intention in taking other parties along to come up with a candidate who is truly acceptable to most parties.

“We are speaking to all the parties and trying to bring as many as possible on board”, said the Congress spokesperson, adding that the party has also not made up its mind on its presidential candidate.

“It is wrong to say that the Congress has either finalised Gopal Krishna Gandhi or anyone else as its candidate. First, we will reach out to the other parties to see what they are agreeable with because finalising the name would only make them wary of our intent. So discussing the prospective names only comes later,” the spokesperson said.

Congress has also been actively trying to make the opposition flock together through the ten-member committee comprising Ghulam Nabi Azad and Mallikarjun Kharge, RJD chief Lalu Prasad Yadav, Yechury, NCP’s Praful Patel, JD(U)’s Sharad Yadav, TMC’s Derek O’Brien, Samajwadi Party’s Ram Gopal Yadav, BSP’s Satish Chandra Mishra and DMK’s Alandur R S Bharthi.

At its first meeting on Wednesday, some of the group’s members had stressed on the need for putting up an “ideological and political fight” against the BJP and not to compromise with it. Some of the members had even cautioned in the meeting that the BJP was not serious about any consultations as it had the numbers with the support of the YSR Congress to have its own candidate elected as the president.

The opposition parties also believe that the BJP is playing its cards close to the chest and will not reveal the name of the candidate it has on its mind just yet. “The BJP had kept its chief ministerial candidates for Haryana, Jharkhand, Maharashtra and even UP a closely guarded secret till the last moment. There are just two people who take all the decisions and we are quite sure the names which have been floated from their end till now are only covers,” said another Congress spokesperson.

Incidentally, for the post of the president, the name of Naidu had done the rounds for some time till he was nominated on the party’s selection panel. Similarly, when it comes to the names of Lok Sabha Speaker Sumitra Mahajan, senior leader Murli Manohar Joshi, UP governor Ram Naik, or even Union ministers Thawarchand Gehlot or Sushma Swaraj, other parties believe they are just names for the time being that may or may not emerge as BJP’s candidates for the post of either president or vice president.

Incidentally, among the opposition parties apart from Gopal Krishna Gandhi, the other names that have been doing the rounds as prospective candidates include those of former Lok Sabha speaker Meira Kumar and JD(U)’s Sharad Yadav. But while the Congress is keen to engage with all the opposition parties, it is wary about the intention of the AAP, which it considers to be the B-team of the BJP and closely connected to the RSS like the saffron party itself. Congress and the NCP had also opposed AAP’s inclusion in the opposition panel.

The Congress is now awaiting the second meeting of the ten-member panel that has been scheduled for next week. “Mr Azad is working on the next course of action and we are hopeful of some positing outcome in the next meeting,” the party member said.