In pursuit of a common candidate for post of next President, Bihar Chief Minister and JD(U) chief Nitish Kumar on Thursday night met Congress President Sonia Gandhi and reportedly advocated unity among opposition parties to take on the BJP-led NDA. The meeting is also viewed as a bid to put up a joint fight against the saffron brigade in the 2019 general elections.
JD(U) is also learnt to have urged Gandhi to take the lead in the matter. However, its spokesperson K C Tyagi, insisted that the issue of presidential election was not discussed in the meeting and added it was his party’s view that a strong joint opposition candidate will be in national interest.
“There should a joint opposition candidate for the top Constitutional post and Sonia Gandhi being the leader of the largest opposition party should take the lead,” he said.
Kumar has already taken up the matter with leaders of the Left parties and received a good response, he said.
Another senior JD(U) leader said Kumar’s visit to Gandhi’s residence was a courtesy call as the Congress is the party’s ally in Bihar and also because Gandhi had been ill for some time.
“He did speak about the need for unity among opposition parties,” he added.
Kumar has been calling for forging an alliance of secular parties at the national level on the lines of the 2015 electoral grand alliance or ‘Mahagathbandhan’ in Bihar to take on the BJP-led NDA under Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
The Congress is a partner in the Bihar government with Kumar’s JD-U and Lalu Prasad’s RJD, after the three parties contested and won the assembly elections as part of the grand alliance.
Despite the sweeping victories in UP and Uttarakhand, the BJP is 20,100 votes short of the halfway mark in the Electoral College that elects the President.
CPM Politburo has already decided that if there is a common Presidential candidate from the Opposition, they would extend support. They have said that the party would prefer somebody who is not a leader of any particular party so that there can be “widest possible unity”. But at the same time, the candidate should be a “firm secular person”. “The idea is to find somebody on whose name all of us can unite,” a senior CPM leader was quoted by the Indian Express.
Out of 1.09 million votes of the Electoral College, the BJP-led NDA has 54, 9442 votes. In order to get its nominee elected as President, the NDA will have to depend on the support of regional parties such as the AIADMK.
Addressing the BSP workers during BR Ambedkar’s birth anniversary function at Lucknow’s Ambedkar Memorial last week, the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) chief Mayawati indicated that she was willing to be part of a larger anti-BJP front.
“To keep democracy alive, I am ready to be part of anti-BJP front. We have to cut poison with poison. Due to tampering of EVMs, the voters won’t be able to elect their favourite leaders.The anti-BJP front is necessary to make sure that popular candidate who has mass support wins elections,” she said.