Congress, Left Leaders Likely to Attend Mamata Banerjee's Meet Ahead of Presidential Polls

Although opposition leaders are not impressed by Banerjee's "unilateral" initiative, they are likely to attend the meet to avoid any hints of "division" in the opposition camp from going public, news reports say.

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New Delhi: Ahead of the presidential elections next month, West Bengal chief minister and Trinamool Congress chief Mamata Banerjee has invited leaders of 19 political parties on Wednesday, June 15 in Delhi to discuss the opposition’s strategy.

However, the Congress and the Left parties are not impressed with Banerjee’s “unilateral” initiative, the Indian Express reported. Despite that, the party leaders are likely to attend the meeting, sources in these parties told the newspaper, as they want to avoid any hints of “division” in the opposition camp from going public.

Reports have emerged that Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) chief Sharad Pawar could be the opposition’s pick for India’s top post. He’s expected to reach Delhi on Tuesday, June 14. Apart from the Congress, the Aam Aadmi Party too had held discussions with Pawar on the presidential polls.

Sources said the AAP has conveyed to Pawar that it will support him if he is the candidate for the presidential elections, the Indian Express reported. It is not clear who will attend the meeting on behalf of the Congress and the Left.

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However, the NCP leader has so far not committed to fight the presidential elections, the Times of India reported. “I am not in the race. I will not be the Opposition’s candidate for the president’s post,” the former defence minister told a gathering of NCP cabinet ministers on Monday, June 13.

The tenure of President Ram Nath Kovind will end on July 24, 2022. The election to fill the position of the 15th President of India will be held on July 18. The results will be declared on July 21.

In 2017, former Lok Sabha speaker Meira Kumar was the unanimous choice of the 17 opposition parties against the National Democratic Alliance’s (NDA) Ram Nath Kovind.

In the last presidential elections, the JD(U), then in the opposition camp, had deserted it and extended support to Kovind, who had secured 65.65% of votes.

Amid the Enforcement Directorate’s (ED) summoning of Congress leader Rahul Gandhi in an alleged money laundering case, sources in the party told the Indian Express it is keen to see the Opposition united at this juncture.

The news report added that leaders of the Congress and others in the Opposition are also suspecting the ED move may have been timed with the presidential elections. CPI general secretary D. Raja told the daily: “The timing and context of the ED move raises several questions. Why the ED was waiting all the while. If there are serious things, the ED could have taken up (the questioning of Congress leaders) long ago. There are genuine apprehensions and allegations that the central agencies are being used to terrorise the Opposition for political purposes”.