Opposition huddles after Gopalkrishna Gandhi bows out of Presidential race

Former West Bengal Governor is the third public figure to back out, after NCP’s Sharad Pawar and NC’s Farooq Abdullah

June 20, 2022 08:07 pm | Updated June 21, 2022 10:48 am IST - New Delhi

File photo of Gopalkrishna Gandhi.

File photo of Gopalkrishna Gandhi. | Photo Credit: S.S. Kumar

Former West Bengal Governor Gopalkrishna Gandhi declined the Opposition’s invitation to contest the Presidential race. Mr. Gandhi is the third public figure to back out of the fight after Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) supremo Sharad Pawar and former J&K Chief Minister Farooq Abdullah. The Opposition is now considering TMC vice president Yashwant Sinha. A final decision will be taken at a meeting on Tuesday morning.

Mr. Gopalkrishna Gandhi issued a statement saying that the Opposition’s candidate should be the one who will “generate a national consensus” and a “national atmosphere beside Opposition unity”. “I feel there will be others who will do this far better than I. And so, I have requested the leaders to give the opportunity to such a person,” he said. Mr. Gandhi had contested the Vice-Presidential polls in 2017.

The Opposition had a first round of meetings on June 15 and the next one is coming up on Tuesday (June 21). After the latest development, select Opposition leaders will have pre-meeting consultations on Monday night.

The Left parties have been particularly keen on Mr. Gopalkrishna Gandhi’s candidature, with Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) general secretary Sitaram Yechury framing the contest as “Gandhi versus Godse”, coinciding as it is with the 75th anniversary of India’s Independence.

The Trinamool Congress (TMC) and the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) were banking on Mr. Pawar. But even before the first round of a joint Opposition meeting, Mr. Pawar declared that he would not contest.

In the June 15 meeting of 17 Opposition parties hosted by West Bengal Chief Minister and TMC president Mamata Banerjee, political leaders again requested Mr. Pawar to reconsider but their effort failed to have any impact. The second and the final round of meetings is scheduled for Tuesday, and will be chaired by Mr. Pawar.

With Mr. Gopalkrishna Gandhi counting himself out, Opposition parties are in a dilemma. Senior Congress leader Mallikarjun Kharge at the June 15 meeting had said that the Opposition must be “proactive” and not “reactive”.

With the final deadline for filing nominations just nine days away, a select few Opposition leaders will be meeting on Monday evening to come up with a name ahead of Tuesday’s meet. “There is a division among the Opposition parties. One section believes that we should wait for the government to declare their candidate and propose a suitable one to counter that. However, in such a case, we are letting the government set the narrative. In a battle where we do not have the numbers with us, at least we must control the narrative,” a senior Opposition leader said.

The second meeting will try to ensure Opposition parties like the Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS), which skipped the first meeting, are also be present. Telangana Chief Minister K. Chandrashekhar Rao had said he would send a representative to the first meeting but no one from the party attended.

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