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Absence of key regional parties in meeting on presidential poll cheers BJP

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New Delhi: The decision of some key regional parties like the Biju Janata Dal, Telangana Rashtra Samithi and Aam Aadmi Party to skip a key opposition meet called by West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee on the presidential poll has cheered the ruling BJP as it believes that their absence has only highlighted the faultlines and one-upmanship among its rivals.

While Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik-led BJD has always maintained a distance from the opposition camp and has often backed the BJP-led NDA government on several issues, the absence of AAP and TRS are significant as both parties have been critical of the ruling party and have called for forging a wider unity against it in the past.

The National Democratic Alliance, which already has over 48 per cent of the vote share in the electoral college for choosing the new President, is hopeful of support from the BJD and also the YSR Congress, which is in power in Andhra Pradesh and has sizeable numbers in Parliament as well.

Like the BJD, the YSR Congress, too, has kept a distance from the opposition camp and has often lent its support to the ruling BJP in and outside Parliament on many issues while not being formally a part of the incumbent alliance.

Making light of the opposition meeting, BJP spokesperson and Rajya Sabha MP Sudhanshu Trivedi said many opposition leaders engage in a host of activities to establish their supremacy over each other.

This meeting, he said, has nothing to do with either the BJP or the country. It is merely a reflection on the one-upmanship among the opposition leaders who keep looking for one opportunity or another to do that, he added.

Leaders of the Congress, Samajwadi Party, NCP, DMK, RJD and the Left parties attended the meeting called by the Trinamool Congress supremo. Leaders of Shiv Sena, CPI, CPI(M), CPI(ML), National Conference, PDP, JD(S), RSP, IUML, RLD and the JMM also attended the deliberations, which took place on a day the nomination for the presidential election began.

The BJP has already authorised its two senior leaders, Defence Minister Rajnath Singh and party president J P Nadda to consult different parties, including those in the opposition, in its bid to evolve a consensus on the matter.

Despite their clear numerical disadvantage, opposition parties have indicated that they will field their own candidate for the election scheduled for July 18 in case more than one candidate is in the fray.

Opposition’s best hope, political watchers believe, is in a candidate whose appeal and stature may persuade some fence-sitters to support him or her and make the contest more interesting.

NCP president Sharad Pawar’s name was floated earlier but his party has asserted that he is not in the race.

The name of Gopalkrishna Gandhi, a respected scholar and former West Bengal governor, is also doing the rounds as one of the opposition’s choices.

Gandhi was the consensus opposition candidate for the post of Vice President of India in 2017 but had lost to veteran BJP leader M Venkaiah Naidu in the election. However, he did succeed in getting support from the JD(U) and BJD, two parties that had supported NDA’s Ram Nath Kovind in the presidential polls held around the same time.

Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar’s JD(U) was in the opposition camp when it announced support to Gandhi and maintained its support even though he had joined hands with the BJP in the interim.

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