There were speculations in media reports and in political corridors about Pawar being the opposition’s presidential candidate. Sharad Pawar, 81, had earlier shut down guesswork at a meeting with his party leaders, who revealed that the former Union Minister was reluctant to fight “a losing battle”.
At a meeting of opposition parties called by Mamata Banerjee, he officially declared stating he has an active role to play in national politics. Mamata Banerjee, who had met Sharad Pawar last evening, proposed his name for President at the opposition meeting. No other name has been proposed so far. Congress had no name to suggest yet. The presidential elections will take place on July 18 and the results will be declared on July 21. June 29 is the last date for nominations.
Opposition parties discussed a 21 June deadline for naming a presidential candidate and a panel of leaders to hold consultations and identify the nominee. Sharad Pawar had the support of many parties, including Mamata Banerjee’s Trinamool Congress, Left, the Congress and the Shiv Sena. After his refusal, former Bengal governor Gopal Krishna Gandhi emerged as the choice of the Left. But the first opposition meeting to discuss a joint strategy to take on the BJP and its allies in the Presidential election saw five big absentees.
The Congress, which has turned Rahul Gandhi’s questioning by the Enforcement Directorate in the National Herald case into a show of strength, has chosen to look beyond their animosity with the Trinamool in Bengal and agreed to join the meeting. The Left too has said they will attend the meeting.
Among those who have opted out, the most prominent is the Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS) led by Telangana Chief Minister K Chandrashekhar Rao, Akali Dal, the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) and Jagan Reddy. Mr Rao, who had bonded with Mamata Banerjee over their common goal of defeating the BJP, has raised strong objections to the Congress being invited.
“There is no question of sharing any platform with the Congress,” said the TRS in a pungent note. The party said the Congress had been invited despite its objections and lashed out at its leader Rahul Gandhi. It also accused the Congress of “ganging up with the BJP” in Telangana, especially in the recent by-polls. The TRS also complained against what it called the “method of trying to put up an opposition presidential candidate”.
“Even otherwise, TRS is not in agreement with this method of trying to put up an opposition presidential candidate. In this case, the candidate was already chosen, and the candidate’s opinion was taken, after which the meeting was called. Why was it done this way?” the party fumed. TRS sources said, “many important leaders” were likely to stay away from the meeting.
AAP, also dropping out of the meeting, said it will “consider the matter only after the Presidential candidate is declared”. Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik’s Biju Janata Dal (BJD) is also not expected to show up. The party had been invited in an attempt to bring it over to the opposition’s corner. AIMIM leader Asaduddin Owaisi said he was not invited.
“We have not been invited and we would not have attended because the Congress party has been invited,” Owaisi said. Shiromani Akali Dal has also opted out of the meeting due to the presence of the Congress, a party leader said. The YS Jagan Mohan Reddy-led YSRCP, which is in power in Andhra Pradesh, was also a no-show.