Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar held a hurriedly-scheduled meeting with Congress president Sonia Gandhi and the two are learnt to have discussed the issue of putting up a common nominee for the Presidential polls in July. Nitish is learnt to have spoken to CPM general secretary Sitaram Yechury over the phone on the same issue.
Sources said the meeting between Nitish and Sonia took place on the invitation of the Congress president. The Bihar CM, after arriving in the national capital on Thursday, first went to the residence of INLD chief Om Prakash Chautala in the morning.
Late in the afternoon, he drove to Sonia’s 10, Janpath, residence where the two leaders spoke for around half-an-hour.
Though there was no official word on it, sources said Nitish told Sonia that she should think of a common candidate for the Presidential election and assured her of his party’s support.
CPM has already decided after a thorough discussion in their Politburo that if there is a common Presidential candidate from the Opposition, they would extend support.
Sources in the CPM said it 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 said.
The issue was also discussed at a meeting between the top leadership of CPM and CPI here on Thursday.
“We thought there can be some common candidate. If suggestions come, Left parties will also participate in the discussion. The preliminary idea is whether all of us can come together. So if we come to an understanding that we can fight together, some names will be discussed. I do not think it is going to be very difficult. We can find somebody maybe among the political leaders.We can discuss the names of some secular democratic personalities,” CPI general secretary S Sudhakar Reddy said.
He added: “From the Left, we do not have any candidate at the moment.”
JD(U) general secretary K C Tyagi refused to divulge much regarding the Nitish-Sonia meeting, saying that he was not present, but reiterated the party’s stand that it strongly favours that Opposition parties put up a common Presidential nominee to contest against NDA’s candidate.
“We are sticking to our stand. A common Presidential nominee by Opposition parties will be the touchstone of the larger Opposition unity against BJP. Congress being the largest party should take the lead in the matter,” Tyagi told The Indian Express.
The JD(U) leader hastened to add that there was no reference to any name in the Nitish-Sonia meeting. He said the discussion focused on how “all opposition parties have to work together with a common goal against the BJP.”
NCP on Tuesday ruled out Sharad Pawar being in the contest for Presidential elections, while sources in JD(U) have downplayed speculation of Sharad Yadav being in the fray.
Nitish had first broached the idea of non-NDA parties propping up a common Presidential candidate in February when he held meetings with Yechury and Reddy in the national capital. He had also shared his “concern” with leaders of NCP, CPM, CPI and INLD over the possibility of BJP propping up “somebody with RSS background” for the post.