BJP seeks consensus without names

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By deliberating with Sonia Gandhi and proposing to meet Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) chief Sharad Pawar and Communist Party of India - Marxist (CPM) chief Sitaram Yechuri and a host of other opposition leaders, the BJP has effectively countered the criticism by its political rivals that the Narendra Modi government was not interested in building consensus on an issue as important as the presidential election and was thrusting unilateralism over others.

Sources said Singh and Naidu - the panel's third member, Arun Jaitley, is overseas - told the opposition leaders that the party would like to finalise the name of the candidate for the post before Modi left on a foreign tour on June 24.

They also met Congress president Sonia Gandhi earlier on Friday. Finance minister Arun Jaitley is returning from overseas on Saturday and is expected to touch base with socialist parties over the next few days. "But that they did not convey.they will take some time to do that".

Senior Congress leader Mallikarjun Kharge later told reporters that there was no question of consensus "when they have not given any names".

"When they have not given any names, then where is the question of consensus. If they give the names, only then can we discuss them", he said.

He, however, said the ruling party should first come out with its candidate to help bring about a consensus.

After the meeting, senior Congress leader Ghulam Nabi Azad told the media, "The BJP ministers did not give us any name, instead asked us for a name".

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The opposition parties also believe that the BJP is playing its cards close to the chest and will not reveal the name of the candidate it has on its mind just yet. "We have many names", Mr Yechury said. We said fine, tell us the basis for the support, who is the candidate.

While the names of Union Minister Thawarchand Gehlot (a Dalit), Jharkhand Governor Draupadi Murmu or Karia Munda (tribal leaders) have been speculated for long on the basis of social considerations, there has been conjecture regarding getting someone from south India as the BJP tries to widen its footprint. Naidu is reported to have reached out to the CPI (M), NCP and BSP as the BJP wants to finalise its candidate to file the nomination for the presidential poll before Prime Minister Narendra Modi leaves for his U.S. tour on June 24. They said the government wants our cooperation.

So, while a section sought to suggest that Venkaiah Naidu's inclusion in the panel of three meant his exclusion from the list, that logic, indirectly, would mean External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj could be in contention.

Countering the opinion that the opposition should support the ruling alliance's candidate since it has the people's mandate, Yechury said the NDA had polled 39 per cent votes during the 2014 general polls as against 61 per cent of the opposition.

Parkash Singh Badal: The former chief minister of the Punjab, Parkash Singh Badal, had though denied reports of him in presidential race given his age; however, his name is also discussed for the post. "So, there is nothing to think about when they did not suggest any name".

Some of the members had even cautioned in the meeting that the BJP was not serious about any consultations as it had the numbers with the support of the YSR Congress to have its own candidate elected as the president. "But unfortunately, that has not come", one of the sources said.

Sources in the BJP said, that before leaving for the United States for his summit meeting with President Donald Trump, PM Modi may communicate the final choice to the Parliamentary Board on this coming Friday to seek its ratification.

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