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Presidential polls: Non-BJP parties strive to unite, present common candidate

NCP chief Sharad Pawar, JD(U) leader Sharad Yadav, former PM Manmohan Singh and historian Irfan Habib among names under consideration as secular parties vie for survival in aftermath of the disastrous UP polls

india Updated: May 02, 2017 12:08 IST
Srinand Jha and Aurangzeb Naqshbandi
Many believe former prime minister Manmohan Singh (seen here with Congress leaders Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi) is a worthy candidate for the President’s post.
Many believe former prime minister Manmohan Singh (seen here with Congress leaders Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi) is a worthy candidate for the President’s post. (Sonu Mehta/ HT Photo)

Will Nationalist Congress Party chief Sharad Pawar emerge as the common candidate of the Opposition parties for the upcoming presidential polls? Or, will former Janata Dal (United) president Sharad Yadav fit the bill better? Alternatively, what are the chances of non-BJP leaders agreeing to nominate somebody like historian Irfan Habib – a man unconnected with politics – for the post?

Questions like these have been doing the rounds, even as regional party satraps urge the Congress to take the lead in presenting a united front against the ruling NDA in the presidential polls. Among the other names in circulation are that of former prime minister Manmohan Singh and previous Lok Sabha speaker Meira Kumar.

A new President will have to be elected before July 25, when Pranab Mukherjee’s term expires.

Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar and CPI(M) general secretary Sitaram Yechury stressed on the need for the Opposition camp to forge a combined strategy, and arrive at a consensus on a common presidential candidate, in separate meetings with Congress president Sonia Gandhi on Thursday.

While the NDA’s thumping victory in Uttar Pradesh has boosted its position in the electoral college meant for picking the new President, the ruling coalition remains short of the half-way mark by around 21,000 votes.

“If the non-BJP parties unite, a realistic fight can be put up. The defeat of the NDA candidate will come as a big morale booster for the Opposition. But it is up to an all-India party like the Congress to take the initiative forward,” said JD(U) spokesperson KC Tyagi.

CPI leader D Raja said that though non-BJP parties are trying to arrive at a consensus on a common candidate, they haven’t started discussing any names yet.

After being hammered by the BJP in the recent Uttar Pradesh assembly elections, Opposition parties plan to join forces as a means to achieve political survival. At a recent event held to launch the Hindi version of his autobiography, Pawar hinted that the Congress must unite with regional parties to fight their common saffron adversary.

Efforts at forming a grand alliance have gained traction in recent days. While Trinamool Congress chief Mamata Banerjee has initiated talks with Odisha chief minister Navin Patnaik, both Akhilesh Yadav’s Samajwadi Party and Mayawati’s Bahujan Samaj Party have favoured the alliance option. Even Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal has come around to supporting the “unite or perish” slogan.