Pratibha Patil, Kalam key references in BJP-Cong meet on presidential election; Sena pitches MS Swaminathan
Union ministers Venkaiah Naidu and Rajnath Singh pointed out that the then Congress-led government didn’t consult with the Opposition but went ahead and announced Patil’s candidature in 2007india Updated: Jun 27, 2017 12:38 IST
The government on Friday found little support as it started consultations with opposition parties for a possible consensus on the next President even as its ally Shiv Sena proposed agriculture scientist MS Swaminathan for the country’s top job.
Opposition leaders said the government’s move was “more like a PR exercise” as it did not reveal the names of its potential candidates.
The successor of President Pranab Mukherjee will be elected on July 17 through a complex voting pattern involving parliamentarians and state legislators.
Two Union ministers, Venkaiah Naidu and Rajnath Singh, met several opposition leaders, including Congress president Sonia Gandhi, to seek their “views and suggestions”.
The BJP leaders reminded the Congress of the 2007 presidential polls when the UPA government propped up Pratibha Patil without consulting the NDA, which was then in the opposition. They also referred to media reports of “unfortunate allegations” against Patil’s husband.
Naidu and Singh also mentioned the 2002 polls, when APJ Abdul Kalam became the consensus choice of both the NDA and the Congress.
Even as they indicated that the opposition’s views would be considered, Gandhi, flanked by senior party leaders Ghulam Nabi Azad and Mallikarjun Kharge, said consultations can take place only if there are specific proposals.
“Whenever they decide on the name, they will seek our cooperation and come back. Till the time any name comes, there is no question of discussion or support,” Azad said.
The NDA’s nominee will be announced before Prime Minister Narendra Modi leaves for a foreign tour on June 24.
The opposition parties have also not revealed the name of their candidate, saying it will be announced if the talks for a common choice fails.
On the Sena proposal, most opposition parties backed Swaminathan’s credentials but said his name could be considered only if the government came with a formal proposal.
One factor which could go against Swaminathan was his age –the man considered the architect of India’s agriculture revolution is 91.
Amid the parleys between the government and opposition, Pranab Mukherjee hosted a lunch for Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh chief Mohan Bhagwat.
Naidu and Singh also met BJP patriarch LK Advani and another party veteran Murli Manohar Joshi.
CPM chief Sitaram Yechury, who was also consulted by the ministers, said a person with “impeccable secular credentials” should be the next president.
When Naidu asked if Yechury has candidates, the communist leader was quoted as saying, “We have many candidates. But you first tell us who is your candidate?”
“It was suggested to the CPM leaders to consider if putting up a candidate just for the sake of it would be necessary,” the sources added.
Naidu later spoke to Samajwadi Party president Mulayam Singh and Bahujan Samaj Party Mayawati.
The ruling BJP-led National Democratic Alliance is short of around 20,000 votes to ensure victory of its candidate. It expects to make up for the shortfall with support from the AIADMK and BJD. The TSR Congress has agreed to back the NDA.