On Tuesday, talks between leaders of several opposition parties to form a joint candidate to run against the NDA’s nominee in the 2019 presidential elections picked up steam, despite the fact that NCP chief Sharad Pawar has stated that he will not run.
Mamata Banerjee, the leader of the Trinamool Congress and West Bengal Chief Minister, met Pawar at his apartment ahead of a joint session of Opposition leaders hosted by her on Wednesday. Praful Patel, a member of the National Congress Party’s Rajya Sabha, was also present at the meeting.
According to Trinamool Congress sources, the Congress, Samajwadi Party, RJD, CPI(M), CPI, NCP, Shiv Sena, and DMK have all confirmed that their leaders will attend the meeting on Wednesday. However, the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) has not yet made up its mind.
A faction of the AAP leadership believes the party should unite with the bigger Opposition to mount a robust opposition to the BJP, while another believes that doing so will dilute the party’s nature.
“Arvind Kejriwal and Mamata Banerjee had a nice relationship in the past, but today, after electoral victories, both are aiming a national position.” But there’s no animosity either, so the AAP is stuck,” an AAP leader said.
While no details of the Pawar-Banerjee meeting were released, Left leaders claimed Pawar indicated them he was not interested in running as the joint opposition nominee in the elections. “Today, Ms. Mamata Banerjee visited me at my home in Delhi. Pawar wrote, “We had a detailed talk on several problems linked to our country.”
Pawar was also met by CPI(M) general secretary Sitaram Yechury and his CPI colleague D Raja. The NCP veteran told them that he will attend Banerjee’s Constitution Club meeting on Wednesday because unity among secular democratic parties and forces is critical given the country’s current political predicament.
“He stated that he is not interested in running for office. In tomorrow’s meeting, he will say so openly. “We need to look into other candidates’ options,” Raja told The Indian Express.
The meeting will be attended by the Left parties and the Congress.
T R Baalu, the DMK’s Lok Sabha leader, has been dispatched to the conference. Later in the day, the Left leaders are expected to meet with Baalu.
Mallikarjun Kharge, Jairam Ramesh, and Randeep Surjewala are expected to attend the meeting on behalf of the Congress, according to sources. Both the Congress and the Left are critical of Banerjee’s “unilateral” decision to convene the conference, but sources in both parties told The Indian Express on Monday that they will go in order to avoid any indication of a split in the Opposition camp.