Ailing DMK patriarch M Karunanidhi’s birthday celebration on June 3 is being seen as a mega political event with top Opposition leaders converging in Chennai with an aim to reach consensus on a common Presidential candidate.
After suffering resounding defeats in several state and municipal elections after the BJP came to power in the Centre, non-NDA party leaders, including the Congress, are keen to sink their differences and firm up a common strategy on the Presidential election.
Karunanidhi’s birthday celebration is likely to see participation from former Prime Minister HD Deve Gowda of the JDS, Farooq Abdullah of the NC, JD(U)’s Nitish Kumar, RJD supremo Lalu Prasad, Sharad Pawar from NCP and Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi.
Congress chief Sonia Gandhi, who reportedly won’t be flying down to Chennai due to her poor health, is scheduled to convene a joint meeting with Opposition leaders later this month to deliberate upon who could be their Presidential candidate.
Over the past weeks, she has held several one-to-one meetings with prominent Opposition leaders, including Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar, West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee, Sitaram Yechury of the Communist Party of India (Marxist) and D Raja of the CPI.
The Congress, which logged its lowest-ever tally in the 2014 Lok Sabha polls, and managed to win just seven seats in UP has been facing pressure from regional satraps to accommodate their concerns when finalising a candidate for the post of President.
While the ruling NDA has a clear edge in the Electoral College that elects the President, it remains short of a complete majority.
Opposition leaders feel that by putting up a spirited fight for the Presidential election the goal of a united pitch against the BJP in the 2019 general elections would become achievable.