Sonia’s meet on presidential poll: Nitish skips, Kejriwal iffy
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Sonia’s meet on presidential poll: Nitish skips, Kejriwal iffy

Also present at Sonia’s lunch meeting will be NCP chief Sharad Pawar, RJD president Lalu Prasad, JD-U ‘s Sharad Yadav , former Prime Minister HD Deve Gowda of the Janata Dal-S, and NC leader Omar Abdullah

india Updated: May 26, 2017 13:27 IST
Sonia Gandhi,Nitish Kumar,Arvind Kejriwal
Congress president Sonia Gandhi with Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar. (File photo)

Congress president Sonia Gandhi will chair the first meeting of the opposition leaders on Friday to discuss the strategy for the upcoming Presidential elections.

The meeting – that will bring together arch rivals Samajwadi Party leader Akhilesh Yadav and Bahujan Samaj Party supremo Mayawati and Trinamool Congress chief Mamata Bannerjee and CPM general secretary Sitaram Yechury – is expected to discuss the names of probable opposition candidates.

However, Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar will give the lunch meeting a miss.

“Nitish Kumarji will not attend the meeting chaired by Sonia Gandhiji due to prior engagements. Our senior leader, Sharad Yadav, will represent the party instead,” JD(U) national spokesperson KC Tyagi said.

Kejriwal has also indicated he won’t attend the meeting. The opposition leaders are hopeful he will send senior Aam Admi Party leaders for the meeting.

Apart from Mayawati, Yadav, Bannerjee and Yechury, those who are likely to attend the luncheon meeting include Nationalist Congress Party chief Sharad Pawar, Rashtriya Janata Dal president Lalu Prasad, Sharad Yadav of the Janata Dal (United), former Prime Minister HD Deve Gowda of the Janata Dal (Secular), Suravaram Sudhakar Reddy of the CPI, National Conference leader Omar Abdullah and DMK’s Kanimozhi.

The AAP’s presence in a meeting organised by the Congress will surely be a new chapter in its short political history. So far, the AAP had been a bitter rival with the Congress and stayed away from any such opposition combination.

Mamata Banerjee and Sitaram Yechury have been in touch with Kejriwal to rope him in the larger opposition’s scheme of things.

Last week, Kejriwal had a long meeting with Banerjee and appeared to have decided to support the Opposition candidate.

“We have requested him to send two leaders from his party for the opposition meeting. We are hopeful that he will agree,” Banerjee told the Hindustan Times on Thursday evening.

Earlier, Kejriwal has stayed away but allowed his parliamentarians to march alongside Shiv Sena to protest against demonetisation in Delhi. Banerjee organised the march to Rashtrapati Bhavan with AAP, National Conference, Sena and some other parties.

This time, opposition parties are hopeful Kejriwal will follow the same model.

The Congress favours Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) chief Sharad Pawar as the opposition candidate for the upcoming presidential elections, hoping that the veteran politician will be able to garner support from a cross-section of political parties, including some BJP-led NDA constituents.

However, the main opposition party will support incumbent Pranab Mukherjee if the ruling side re-nominates him.

First Published: May 26, 2017 12:30 IST