April 26, 2018

Prez polls: BJP leaders call on Sonia, Yechury without a name

18 June 2017, 02:39 | Darrell Baldwin

Presidential Elections 2017 BJP committee to meet Sonia Gandhi on Friday

Rajnath Sonia Gandhi and LK Advani

Speaking to reporters after the almost 30-minute meeting held at the CPI (M) head office here, Yechury reiterated his party's stand that a person with "impeccable secular credentials" should be the next president.

Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh and Union Information and Broadcasting Minister M. Venkaiah Naidu on Friday met Yechury. The third member of this committee, finance and defence minister Arun Jaitley was not there because he is away in Seoul. "A few of the NDA allies have already conveyed to the BJP panel that they would abide by the decision of the Prime Minister for Presidential election".

After the meeting, Naidu said that Prime Minister Narendra Modi and BJP president Amit Shah want a consensus before the candidate for the post of president is finalised.

"They should give us the name and then seek cooperation", he said.

Former Lok Sabha speaker Meera Kumar's name has been doing the rounds as the Presidential candidate from the Opposition camp.

"We had expected that they would suggest some name which we could have seriously considered". We have a candidate; we have absolute majority to get them elected.

The government today reached out to the opposition on the presidential election with Union Ministers Rajnath Singh and M Venkaiah Naidu meeting Congress president Sonia Gandhi, but the discussions were inconclusive with no names being put forward from either side. They only wanted a "consensus candidate" asking who would be best suited. "Since no names were given from the government side and since no names are being given, there is no question of any discussion and cooperation", Ghulam Nabi Azad, who was present at the meeting, told reporters later.

The meeting, which lasted over 20 minutes, was also attended by senior Congress leader Mallikarjun Kharge. The Atal Bihari Vajpayee government in 2002 was successful in building a broad consensus over the surprise name of APJ Abdul Kalam. Till the time any name comes, there is no question of discussion or support, ” he said.

Sure of its victory, the BJP will also choose its candidate with an aim to break the new found unity in the Opposition.

"We would have certainly thought about such a person, but they did not suggest any name". "We asked if they have a candidate". Barring the Left Front, nearly all parties including Congress supported Kalam's candidature.

CPI (M) general secretary Sitaram Yechury told Rajnath and Venkaiah the BJP's point is that the Opposition should agree to a consensus because the 2014 general election's mandate was for that party. June 22, they say is the most appropriate date to make that big announcement.

Naidu explained the twin objectives of the consultation process were to have the benefit of the views and suggestions of various parties in the matter and also to seek their support in the election.

Naidu also had a conversation on this with NCP Chief Sharad Pawar over the phone and met AIADMK leader Thambidurai.

Meanwhile, BJP ally Shiv Sena floated the name of eminent agriculture scientist M.S. Swaminathan for the top job if its "first choice" RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat was not acceptable. However, Sangh sources said that Bhagwat had gone to meet Mukherjee since he was unable to accept an earlier invitation by the President some months ago for a dinner due to a prior commitment.

The Congress leader said the BJP was seeking cooperation but his party did not know what is on their mind.

Criticising the BJP for not naming possible candidates, Yechury called the talks "more of a PR exercise" and reiterated the person occupying the president's post had to be an individual with "impeccable" secular credentials.

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