BJP begins talks with Oppn for prez nominee

BJP begins talks with Oppn for prez nominee

BJP begins talks with Oppn for prez nominee
Union Ministers Rajnath Singh and M Venkaiah Naidu on Friday began consultations for the Presidential election with Opposition leaders, who told them that a consensus was difficult if the BJP did not disclose its candidate.

Singh and Naidu met Congress President Sonia Gandhi, CPM leaders Sitaram Yechury, Prakash and Brinda Karat, CPI leaders S Sudhakar Reddy and D Raja. Naidu also held detailed discussions over phone with NCP chief Sharad Pawar and met AIADMK leader M Thambidurai, SP patriarch Mulayam Singh Yadav and BSP leader S C Mishra.

However, in none of the meetings did the ministers disclose the names Prime Minister Narendra Modi or the BJP had in mind for the post of President that falls vacant on July 24.

“When they have not given specific names … (then) there is no question of consensus,” Congress leader Mallikarjun Kharge told reporters here. Kharge and Ghulam Nabi Azad were present when Singh and Naidu met Sonia at her residence.

Azad expressed surprise that Naidu and Rajnath were asking the Congress to reveal its cards without disclosing any names being considered by the government. “...since no names are being given, there is no question of any discussion and cooperation. They should give us the name and then seek cooperation,” Azad, the Leader of the Opposition in the Rajya Sabha, told reporters.

Yechury dismissed the consultations by the Union ministers as a “public relations exercise” by the Modi government.  However, he told the ministers that the next President should have “impeccable secular credentials”.

Government sources said they felt it inappropriate to suggest a name or a panel of names to Opposition leaders without knowing their views or suggestions. Singh and Naidu told the Opposition leaders that the BJP plans to declare the presidential candidate early next week and the nomination papers would be filed by June 23, a day before Prime Minister Narendra Modi embarks on his foreign visit.

Anticipating that the government may not share any names, the Opposition also began consolidating its ranks. The Congress President held a meeting with Yechury on Thursday night and expressed her firm resolve to put up a joint Opposition candidate.

Opposition sources said it would be their endeavour to declare the joint candidate before the government announced its nominee. Former West Bengal Governor Gopalkrishna Gandhi, former Lok Sabha Speaker Meira Kumar and senior JD(U) leader Sharad Yadav are being considered for the choice of the joint Opposition candidate for the July 17 presidential election.

Home Minister Singh and I&B Minister Naidu are part of the three-member ministerial team constituted by BJP President Amit Shah to consult various political parties on the presidential election.  Finance Minister Arun Jaitley is the third member of the team.

Naidu has already spoken with Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister N Chandrababu Naidu, PMK leader Anbumani Ramadoss and N Rangaswamy of the All India Congress (NR) and sought their cooperation.