Thursday, 16 August, 2018

Will fight prez poll if govt fails to come up with consensus

Over Lunch Opposition Parties Put Ball In Government's Court On President Sonia Gandhi had personally called up opposition leaders and invited them for the lunch she hosted
Johnnie Parks | 27 May, 2017, 09:44

In a development that signals a possible shift in the alignment of politics in Bihar, Chief Minister Nitish Kumar is set to visit New Delhi to meet Prime Minister Narendra Modi who is hosting his Mauritian counterpart in the capital tomorrow.

Major opposition parties, led by the Congress, came together on Friday on a common platform and chose to contest the upcoming Presidential Election if the government does not come up with a consensus candidate - but the absence of Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar set off speculation about possible political realignment, more so after the recent Income Tax raids on the properties of Rashtriya Janata Dal chief Lalu Prasad's kin.

Nitish sent party leaders Sharad Yadav and K C Tyagi for the crucial meeting with Sonia Gandhi, which coincided with the completion of three years of the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government led by PM Modi.

A joint Opposition candidate for President to take on the ruling BJP's nominee was high on the agenda at the two-hour lunch.

On the Bihar CM not attending Friday's Opposition meet, Alok said, "The Congress President had called the meeting at Nitish's behest".

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Banerjee said there was no harm in discussing a candidate with the government if it comes out with a name and referred to the 2002 Presidential election when the then Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee had floated A P J Abdul Kalam's name and a consensus was evolved around it. "Anybody can talk to anybody", Mamata Banerjee said, adding that no names were discussed at Sonia Gandhi's lunch party. Besides, political observers found a new political inclination of Nitish as he remained mum on the BJP allegations of benami properties acquired by RJD chief Lalu Prasad's family. If Modi fails to do so, the Opposition will then have a valid reason to force a contest in the presidential election. A small committee of Opposition leaders, she said, would decide on their candidate if it came to an election.

Significantly, even leaders of parties who are rivals on the electoral battlefield shared space on Friday: the Samajwadi Party's Akhilesh Yadav and the Bahujan Samaj Party's Mayawati were there, as were West Bengal CM Mamata Bannerjee and the CPI (M)'s Sitaram Yechury.

Bihar Chief Minister Kumar has also mooted a second term for incumbent Pranab Mukherjee and suggested that the ruling BJP try and build consensus on him.

Nitish Kumar's Janata Dal (United) fought the last assembly polls by forging an alliance with Lalu Prasad Yadav-led Rashtriya Janata Dal and the Congress.

Lalu said the Modi government has failed on all fronts. "The Opposition parties also expressed concern over the prevailing grave situation in Jammu and Kashmir", the statement also said.

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