NDA reaches out to Congress on presidential polls, but doesn’t reveal candidate
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NDA reaches out to Congress on presidential polls, but doesn’t reveal candidate

Two senior ministers of the Modi government met Congress chief Sonia Gandhi to gauge if there could be a candidate for the July presidential election.

india Updated: Jun 16, 2017 14:06 IST
Saubhadra Chatterji
Saubhadra Chatterji
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
Sonia Gandhi,Narendra Modi,M Venkaiah Naidu
Union home minister Rajnath Singh and urban development minister M Venkaiah Naidu in a meeting in New Delhi on Wednesday. (PTI)

The Narendra Modi-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) has initiated formal negotiations on the presidential election with the Congress, but is yet to reveal the name of its nominee for the position.

Union ministers Venkaiah Naidu and Rajnath Singh spoke to Congress president Sonia Gandhi at her residence, 10 Janpath, for half an hour on Friday. “The first meeting was not to choose a candidate but to understand the sentiment of Opposition parties. We wanted to check if there is any scope of a consensus,” a government official said.

Singh and Naidu reportedly asked Sonia if she had any nominee in mind, but she remained elusive.

The Congress maintained that there was no point in the NDA holding talks with them without disclosing the name of its presidential choice. “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 mediapersons.

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’s 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 NCP chief has told his allies that he wasn’t keen on contesting the presidential election.

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 12:07 IST