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Gopalkrishna Gandhi could be the Opposition candidate for presidential election

If the government seeks any suggestion from opposition leaders, the Left and the Congress are likely to propose the name of Gopal Krishna Gandhi.

india Updated: Jun 27, 2017 12:37 IST
Saubhadra Chatterjee and Kumar Uttam
Gopal Krishna Gandhi speaks during a book launch event in New Delhi.
Gopal Krishna Gandhi speaks during a book launch event in New Delhi.(PTI File Photo)

Former diplomat Gopalkrishna Gandhi could be the potential opposition candidate for the July 17 presidential election, with Left parties pushing for Mahatma Gandhi’s grandson for the country’s highest post, multiple sources told Hindustan Times on Wednesday.

The government, however, is trying to build consensus for its own candidate and two Union ministers, Rajnath Singh and M Venkaiah Naidu, are expected to meet Congress chief Sonia Gandhi on Friday, BJP sources said. They will hold a separate meeting with CPM leader Sitaram Yechury.

India’s presidential election involves a complex voting pattern involving all parliamentarians and state legislators.

The NDA needs around 20,000 more votes to ensure 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.

The YSR Cong has already pledged support to the NDA and that not only fills the gap, but also gives the ruling side a majority. Given the DMK is in the opposition camp, the AIADMK is likely to go with the ruling alliance.

A panel of ten Opposition leaders, assigned to pick a candidate, held its first meeting on Wednesday but decided to wait after the government’s overtures.

If the government seeks any suggestion from opposition leaders, the Left and the Congress are likely to propose the name of 71-year-old Gandhi, a retired IAS officer and former governor of Bengal.

RJD chief Lalu Prasad is understood to have endorsed the stand. “No ideological compromise,” a source quoted him as saying.

Sources ruled out the possibility of NCP chief Sharad Pawar’s nomination, saying that when Congress president Sonia Gandhi proposed it to him last April, he had ruled himself out.

Another probable candidate, former Lok Sabha speaker Meira Kumar, is seen as a “weak candidate”, the sources added.

The meeting saw leaders argue over the proposed candidate even as Yechury exhorted all parties to “prepare for a fight” whoever their candidate is.

Congress leader Ghulam Nabi Azad, the coordinator of the group, suggested that they wait for the government nominee.

BJP sources said a Brahmin-Dalit combination was being explored for the post of the President and the Vice President.

Uttar Pradesh governor Ram Naik, Lok Sabha Speaker Sumitra Mahajan and veteran Murli Manohar Joshi are considered as contenders for the President’s post while Union minister Thawarchand Gehlot is seen a probable for the post of vice president that falls vacant in August.

The Prime Minister is leaving for the United States on June 25 and the announcement of the NDA’s candidate could happen around June 20.

The treasury bench is expecting MLAs of Mamata Banerjee’s Trinamool Congress and those from the Congress in states such as Gujarat and Karnataka to spring a last-minute surprise on their party.

On Wednesday, Venkaiah Naidu spoke to Bahujan Samaj Party’s Satish Chandra Mishra and Nationalist Congress Party’s Praful Patel. Rajnath and Naidu also briefed Modi about the deliberations.

Naidu and Rajnath are part of a three-member panel, also comprising finance minister Arun Jaitley, that the BJP has formed to hold dialogue with the opposition and within the NDA over the polls.

Separately, BJP chief Amit Shah formed another committee to work with states to ensure victory of its candidates.