Presidential poll: BJP to approach Sonia Gandhi this week

Presidential poll: BJP to approach Sonia Gandhi this week
A BJP committee comprising union ministers Rajnath Singh, Arun Jaitley and M Venkaiah Naidu will meet Congress president Sonia Gandhi before this weekend for consultations on the presidential election.

As a first step for evolving a consensus, the panel is expected to seek the views of the Congress president and later other opposition leaders on the names they have in mind.  Later, in subsequent rounds, the panel may propose what the NDA leaders have in mind, BJP officials said.

Leaders of top opposition parties will meet here on  Wednesday to work out their strategy. This will be the first meeting of the 10-member group set up after Sonia Gandhi held consultations with other opposition leaders.

Even though Prime Minister Narendra Modi and BJP president Amit Shah have "zeroed" in on some names, the final call on the candidate could be taken on the basis of response of the opposition parties and senior BJP leaaders, they said.

Already, Shah has been sounding out to members of the party's parliamentary board, the highest decision making body of BJP, about the "broad considerations" before the party for the selection of person to succeed President Pranab Mukherjee, whose term ends next month.

Among the names on the BJP's list, those of former Punjab chief minister and Akali leader Parkash Singh Badal, Jharkhand Governor Droupadi Murumu, and Union Social Justice and Empowerment Minister Thawar Chand Gehlot are said to be ranked high, party officials said.

Badal's name was taken up for consideration as some BJP leaders thought that he could command wide support across the political spectrum because of his close ties withe such parties like the DMK and the Janata Dal(United).

As a dalit leader from Madhya Pradesh, the Union Social Justice and Empowerment Minister's name had cropped up during several discussions. Similarly, Draupadi is a Santhal tribal from Odisha. Many BJP officials believe that these candidates would not be rejected by the opposition, which has adopted a "wait and watch" approach. 

The names that are on the opposition leaders' mind include former West Bengal Governor Gopalkrishna Gandhi as those of former Speaker Meira Kumar and former Defence Minister Sharad Pawar.

After his visits to meet Home Minister Rajnath Singh and Finance Minister Arun Jaitely, Shah went to the residence of Urban Development Minister Venkaiah Naidu on Tuesday. Later, Naidu said the BJP would talk to all political parties to evolve a broad consensus on presidential nominee in the "true spirit of democracy."

"We have started internal consultations. We are the ruling party and we have to taken everyone on board and work towards evolving a broad consensus (for a presidential nominee) and seek their support," Naidu said.

Naidu, however, added that his "appeal to all is that they should go by the mandate of the people which is for this government." The poll to elect the next president will be held on July 17 and counting will take place on July 20. The term of incumbent Pranab Mukherjee ends on July 24 and that of Vice President M Hamid Ansari on August 10.

Meanwhile, the government set up a committee of secretaries headed by Cabinet Secretary P K Sinha to oversee arrangements for the swearing-in of the new President around June 25. The nomination process is being opened by the Election Commission from Wednesday.

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