Battle of attrition on President poll

NEW DELHI: The government and opposition were on Friday locked in a battle of who will blink first, as a two-member BJP team began formal consultations on the President’s election with Congress and other major opposition parties, who made it clear that a consensus will not be possible without the ruling side giving the name of its candidate.
The government side described the opposition demand for disclosure of the name as “inappropriate”.
Senior ministers Rajnath Singh and M Venkaiah Naidu met Congress President Sonia Gandhi, and later CPM leader Sitaram Yechury, but placed no name of its nominee. The exercise was termed as a “PR exercise” by Yechury.
Instead, the BJP team sought from the Congress leadership the name of the opposition candidate for the July 17 election.
Interestingly, the BJP team also met veteran party leaders L K Advani and Murli Manohar Joshi, who were once talked about as possible presidential candidates. The two ministers held discussions with Yechury and his party colleagues Prakash Karat and Brinda Karat, CPI leaders S Sudhakar Reddy and D Raja, Samajwadi Party leader Mulayam Singh Yadav, BSP leader Satish Chandra Mishra and Nationalist Congress Party leader Praful Patel. They also spoke to NCP chief Sharad Pawar and Bahujan Samaj Party chief Mayawati over phone.

The opposition leaders were told that the government and the BJP would like to finalise the candidate for the presidential poll before Prime Minister Narendra Modi leaves on a three-nation trip on June 24.“The BJP leaders did not give any name to Congress President Sonia Gandhi but they wanted us to reveal the name of our candidate. We were expecting them to disclose the name so that we can discuss it in our party and other opposition parties.
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.
“They should give us the name and then seek cooperation,” he said.
Questioned about the purpose of the meeting, Mallikarjun Kharge, who was also present said, “That was only to meet, and they are seeking cooperation. And what I can guess is just they are seeking cooperation because they have already got something in their mind. That’s why they have not given the name.”
Singh and Naidu are part of the three-member team constituted by Bharatiya Janata Party President Amit Shah for discussion with political parties for the presidential polls.
The two-member team later met CPM General Secretary Sitaram Yechury, Prakash Karat and Brinda Karat to seek the party’s support.
Yechury virtually echoed the views of the Congress leaders and expressed dismay over the government not suggesting a name.
“We had expected that they would suggest some name which we could have seriously considered. Unfortunately, they did not come forward with any name,” Yechury said, terming it a “public relations exercise” by the government.
He made it clear that support can be given to a candidate who has impeccable secular credentials and one who can uphold the Constitution.
“We would have certainly thought about such a person, but they did not suggest any name. So, there is nothing to think about when they did not suggest any name,” Yechury said.
The senior communist leader said the government side has assured them they would come up with a name after three-four days and “sought our support”.
On speculation doing the rounds that the Left parties want former West Bengal Governor Gopal Krishna Gandhi as the opposition nominee, he said, “They (government) know. The names that we are discussing are in public domain.”
However, government sources said disclosing the name of its candidate before consultations with political parties may not be appropriate.
Sources said the government and the BJP are of the view that approaching different parties with one or a panel of names for approval without knowing their views and suggestions may not be appropriate.
They said the two-member BJP team, which met Congress President and other leaders, explained to them that the twin objectives of the consultation process was to have the benefit of views and suggestions of various parties in the matter and to seek their support. — IANS