Pratibha Patil, Kalam key references in BJP-Cong meet on presidential election

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 2007

india Updated: Jun 27, 2017 12:38 IST
Saubhadra Chatterji
Saubhadra Chatterji
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
Pratibha Patil,APJ Abdul Kalam,NDA
BJP leaders Rajnath Singh and Venkaiah Naidu leave after meeting Congress president Sonia Gandhi after a discussion on the presidential poll in New Delhi on Friday.(PTI)

The electoral context of two former presidents, Pratibha Patil and APJ Abdul Kalam, were among the key points of discussions between the managers from the Narendra Modi-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) and Congress president Sonia Gandhi on Friday.

Sources said Union ministers Venkaiah Naidu and Rajnath Singh pointed out that the then government led by the Congress didn’t consult with the Opposition but went ahead and announced Patil’s candidature in 2007. The incident was brought up to counter the opposition’s earlier charges that the Modi government has not reached out to them.

During the meeting, some unfortunate allegations also came up against Patil’s husband.

Naidu and Singh spoke to the Congress president at her residence, 10 Janpath, for half an hour.

In the meeting, Naidu and Singh also reminded the Congress president that APJ Abdul Kalam was elected in 2002 as a consensus choice barring the left, who put their own candidate.

Sources said Naidu explained the purpose of the meeting: to know the views of the opposition parties before the PM and the party chief pick a nominee. The government nominees also indicated the Congress leadership that its views will be “seriously considered”.

Both sides didn’t discuss any names of possible candidates.

Singh and Naidu reportedly asked Gandhi if she had any nominee in mind, but she remained elusive. The Congress maintained there was no point in the NDA holding talks with them without disclosing the name of its choice for presidential candidate.

“There’s no question of reaching a consensus when they haven’t given any names. We can discuss it with our allies and other political party leaders only if they give names,” party leader Mallikarjun Kharge told media persons.

Gandhi had met CPI(M) general secretary Sitaram Yechury for a few minutes before Naidu and Singh – who are part of a three-member panel constituted by BJP president Amit Shah to negotiate with other parties – dropped by. The panel is slated to meet Yechury at his party office later in the afternoon.

The government’s outreach had kept opposition parties from finalising a presidential candidate during a meeting on Wednesday.

According to sources, the NDA is trying to win over Sharad Pawar of the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) from the opposition camp. A day after speaking to party leader Praful Patel, Naidu sought an appointment with Pawar on Thursday. The veteran from Maharashtra responded saying he will be New Delhi in a couple of days for further talks.

With just 20,000 votes required to be drawn from other parties, the Narendra Modi government seems set to push its candidate into Rashtrapati Bhavan in the upcoming poll.

The presidential election will be held on July 17, and the votes will be counted three days later.

First Published: Jun 16, 2017 15:38 IST