The Opposition parties on Wednesday took a resolution to field a common candidate for the presidential election. The polls to elect the successor of Ram Nath Kovind is scheduled to be held on July 18 and votes will be counted on July 21.

“We have decided we will choose only one consensus candidate,” Trinamool Congress chief Mamata Banerjee said at a press briefing after a meeting of the Opposition parties. “Everybody will give this candidate our support. We will consult with others. This is a good beginning. We sat together after several months, and we will do it again.”

After the meeting nationalist Congress Party leader Sharad Pawar thanked Opposition leaders for suggesting his name as a candidate. However, the veteran leader said that he would not contest the elections.

Banerjee had invited leaders of all Opposition parties to decide on a joint candidate for the presidential poll. Sixteen Opposition parties attended the meeting and four skipped it.

The Aam Aadmi Party, the Telangana Rashtra Samithi, the Shiromani Akali Dal and the Biju Janata Dal opted out of the meeting that started at 3 pm at the Constitution Club in the national capital.

Rashtriya Janata Dal leaders Manoj Jha and AD Singh, Priyanka Chaturvedi and Subhash Desai from Shiv Sena, HD Kumaraswamy and HD Deve Gowda of Janata Dal (Secular), TR Baalu of Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam and former Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Omar Abdullah of the National Conference are among those attending the meeting, PTI reported.

Congress leaders Mallikarjuna Kharge, Jairam Ramesh and Randeep Singh Surjewala, Nationalist Congress Party’s Sharad Pawar and Praful Patel, Akhilesh Yadav of the Samajwadi Party and Mehbooba Mufti of the Jammu and Kashmir Peoples Democratic Party were at the meeting too.

The Communist Party of India, Communist Party of India (Marxist), Communist Party of India (Marxist–Leninist), Revolutionary Socialist Party, Indian Union Muslim League, Rashtriya Lok Dal and the Jharkhand Mukti Morcha were also in attendance.

The Telangana Rashtra Samithi opted out of the meeting due to Congress’ presence, ANI reported.

“When Rahul Gandhi recently visited Warangal, he commented that Congress wouldn’t share any platform with Telangana Rashtra Samithi,” party leader Krishank told ANI.
“So Telangana Rashtra Samithi also, which is focussing on national politics with alternative thought to BJP and Congress, believes that we don’t want to share any platform with Congress.”

He added that it gives an opportunity to the BJP to accuse the Telangana Rashtra Samithi of being an extension of the United Progressive Alliance. “We feel that Congress is not taking the issues rightly as a claimant of Opposition which the Congress party says against the BJP,” Krishank said.

On June 11, Banerjee had invited leaders of 19 political parties for the joint meeting in the national capital.

The West Bengal chief minister had said that the election gives the “perfect opportunity for all progressive Opposition parties” to discuss the future course of Indian politics. “At a time when our democracy is going through troubling times, I believe that a fruitful confluence of opposition voices is the need of the hour,” she had said.

The president is elected by the members of the electoral college consisting of members of both houses of Parliament and elected members of the legislative assemblies of all states, including the Union Territories of Delhi and Puducherry.

Former West Bengal Governor Gopalkrishna Gandhi on Wednesday said it was too premature to comment on whether he will be the Opposition’s candidate for presidential polls, PTI reported. He had lost to M Venkaiah Naidu for the Vice President of India post during the 2017 elections.

Meanwhile, Defence Minister Rajnath Singh on Wednesday spoke to key Opposition leaders such as Banerjee, Akhilesh Yadav and Mallikarjun Kharge to build a consensus for the presidential candidate, PTI reported. Singh and Bharatiya Janata Party chief JP Nadda have been authorised by the saffron party to build consensus on a candidate.