President Polls: Congress Signs Up For Mamata Banerjee’s Opposition Meet

New Delhi:

The Congress will attend a meeting called by West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee in Delhi on Wednesday, to discuss opposition strategy for the Presidential polls scheduled next month.

Senior leaders Mallikarjuna Kharge, Jairam Ramesh and Randeep Singh Surjewala will represent the Congress at the meeting called by the Trinamool Congress leader, it is learnt.

As for likely consensus so far, over the past few days there were hints that Nationalist Congress Party Sharad Pawar is one of the prospective candidates. Mr Pawar has, however, told his party that he is not in the race, sources have told NDTV. He will attend Wednesday’s opposition meeting.

Ms Banerjee had on Saturday written to opposition leaders, requesting them to attend the meeting.

President Ram Nath Kovind’s term ends on July 24. Elections will be held on July 18 for the next President of India and counting, if required, three days later.

The ruling coalition led by BJP does not have the numbers for a sure-shot victory.

In 2017, the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) had the support of the Telangana Rashtra Samiti (TRS) of K Chandrashekhar Rao, YSR Congress of Jagan Reddy and BJD of Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik, for BJP’s Ramnath Kovind against Congress-led opposition’s candidate Meira Kumar.

This time, Telangana Chief Minister Chandrashekhar Rao, or KCR, is part of efforts to gather opposition forces to take on the BJP jointly.

The polls are based on an electoral college comprising votes of MLAs and MPs. Vote value of each MLA depends on the population of the state and the number of assembly seats. Total strength of the electoral college, thus, is 10,86,431. A candidate with more than 50 per cent votes wins. The NDA is 13,000 votes short.

Before Ms Banerjee kicked of her initiative for opposition unity for the presidential polls, Congress President Sonia Gandhi had reportedly tasked Mr Kharge with this task.

After Ms Banerjee wrote the letter on Saturday, there were questions over cohesiveness in the opposition. The Trinamool is reported to have then reached out to the Congress, which is now sending Mr Kharge and two other leaders for Ms Banerjee’s meeting.

Relations between the Congress and Mamata Banerjee have a long history of ups and downs right from when she left the Congress to set up her own party 25 years ago.

In the most recent turn of events in their relationship, Mamata Banerjee made her national ambitions evident after winning West Bengal again in a heated contest with the BJP last year. In December, an article in Trinamool Congress mouthpiece Jago Bangla said the Congress had gone into a “deep freezer” and opposition parties were now looking up to Mamata Banerjee to fill the vacuum.

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