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Parties Keen on Pawar, but...: What Happened at Oppn Presidential Polls Meet

Leaders from at least 17 parties attended the meeting called by WB Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee.

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Opposition parties adopted a resolution on Wednesday, 15 June, to field a common candidate for the upcoming presidential election, during a meeting called by West Bengal Chief Minister and Trinamool Congress chief Mamata Banerjee.

"Several parties were here today. We have decided that we will choose only one consensus candidate. Everybody will give this candidate their support. We will consult with others. This is a good beginning. We sat together after several months, and we will do it again," Banerjee said, as per news agency ANI.

Amid speculations over his candidature for the presidential post, Nationalist Congress Party leader Sharad Pawar announced after the meeting that he would not be contesting.

Leaders from at least 17 parties attended the meeting at the Constitution Club in Delhi.
  • Banerjee with NCP chief Sharad Pawar.

    (Photo: PTI)

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Sources told The Quint what all went down in the meeting:

  • Banerjee proposed the names of National Conference (NC) chief Farooq Abdullah and former West Bengal Governor Gopalkrishna Gandhi for the post of president.

  • The Congress and the TMC are also willing to work together towards a common consensus.

  • Congress also wants to discuss further before suggesting more names.

  • While it was rumoured, Yashwant Sinha's name was not discussed as Congress does not seem keen as of now.

  • Leader of Opposition Mallikarjun Kharge will coordinate between Mamata and Pawar.

The parties that sent their representatives for the meeting included the Congress, the Communist Party of India, the CPI (Marxist), Shiv Sena, Rashtriya Janata Dal, National Conference, People's Democratic Party, Samajwadi Party, Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam, Rashtriya Lok Dal, Indian Union Muslim League, Jharkhand Mukti Morcha, and Revolutionary Socialist Party.

Banerjee was seen welcoming leaders personally, including PDP chief Mehbooba Mufti and SP chief Akhilesh Yadav.

Amid the WB chief minister's attempt to unite the Opposition for electing a common candidate for the election, several parties, including the Aam Aadmi Party and the Telangana Rashtra Samithi, skipped the meeting.
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Pawar Officially Declines Oppn's Proposal

NCP leader Sharad Pawar took to Twitter to say that he was grateful for Opposition parties to suggest his name for the post, but "humbly" declined their proposal.

"I sincerely appreciate the leaders of opposition parties for suggesting my name as a candidate for the election of the President of India, at the meeting held in Delhi. However I like to state that I have humbly declined the proposal of my candidature," Pawar said.

The CPI's Binoy Viswam said that all parties proposed the name of the NCP chief as the Opposition's presidential nominee, but he said he would not be able to contest due to his health.

"Congress will play constructive role in ensuring that Opposition parties arrive at consensus candidate for the presidential poll," Congress leader and Leader of the Opposition in Lok Sabha Mallikarjun Kharge was quoted as saying by news agency PTI.

Meanwhile, Defence Minister Rajnath Singh is said to have spoken to Kharge, Banerjee and SP chief Yadav on the presidential polls.

TRS Refuses To Share Dais With Cong: Who Else Did Not Attend?

K Chandrashekar Rao-led Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS) skipped the meeting. As per a report by The News Minute, the TRS was not willing to share the dais with the Congress, which is the main Opposition party in Telangana.

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"There is no question of sharing any platform with the Congress," said the TRS.

"Rahul Gandhi, in a recent public meeting in Telangana had targeted the TRS government without any word of criticism against the BJP," the party said, as per an NDTV report.

Further, AIMIM leader Asaduddin Owaisi said he was not invited. "We have not been invited and we would not have attended because Congress party has been invited," he said.

"MK Stalin, K Chandrashekar Rao, Uddhav Thackeray and many big leaders aren't participating... we want unity and a unanimous (presidential) candidate," Congress leader Mallikarjun Kharge was quoted as saying by news agency ANI.

Yuvajana Sramika Rythu Congress Party (YSRCP) MP Vijayasai Reddy V said that the party had not received an invitation for the meeting till Tuesday. The Akali Dal is also likely to skip.

Mamata-Pawar Meeting

A day before the meeting, CM Banerjee on Tuesday met Sharad Pawar at his Delhi residence, amid speculations over him being the Opposition's likely pick for their presidential candidate.

"We had a detailed discussion on various issues related to our country," Pawar wrote in a tweet. The NCP chief turned down Banerjee's proposal for his candidature for president, reports said.

On Monday, Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar also stated that he did not wish to contest the upcoming presidential poll.

President Ram Nath Kovind's five-year term is coming to an end on 24 July. Voting for the next president will be held on 18 July, while the counting of votes will be held on 21 July, the Election Commission announced.
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'Too Premature To Comment': Gopalkrishna Gandhi

Gopalkrishna Gandhi, whose name had cropped up as a likely choice for the Opposition’s candidate in the presidential polls, said that it was “too premature” to comment on the matter.

Some leaders of the Opposition spoke to Gandhi over the phone and asked him to consider their request for being their presidential candidate, PTI reported sources as saying. However, the 77-year-old former diplomat has sought some time to take a decision regarding the matter.

Gandhi was earlier the consensus candidate of the Opposition for the vice-president’s post in 2017, but lost out to Venkaiah Naidu.

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