NEW DELHI: With the presidential election just weeks away, the government and the opposition have revved up their efforts to pick a successor to Pranab Mukherjee, whose term ends next month.
BJP chief Amit Shah, who cancelled his plans to prioritise the Presidential polls, formed a three-member panel today of senior ministers to start consulting allies on the next president.
Union ministers Rajnath Singh, Arun Jaitley and Venkaiah Naidu are in the committee tasked with building consensus around the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA)’s candidate.
Mr Shah has put off a visit to Arunachal Pradesh and also the party’s leadership meet, the National Executive, for discussions on the Presidential polls.
Among the names that have been in circulation as the NDA’s choice is that of Draupadi Murmu, the Governor of Jharkhand.
Opposition parties are to have their own meeting on Wednesday to discuss their candidate.
But ahead of that, Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar has served a curveball by asserting that the opposition will field a candidate only when attempts to field a consensus candidate fail. The initiative, he says, has to be taken by the government.
Nitish Kumar surprise many when he skipped Congress president Sonia Gandhi’s lunch for opposition leaders and was seen the very next day at Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s lunch for his Malaysian counterpart.
Mrs Gandhi’s lunch was seen as a step to bring all opposition parties on the same page.
If the opposition too puts up a candidate, which is likely considering the ongoing talks among top leaders of the Congress, the Left, Janata Dal (United), among others, a content will be inevitable and an election will be held on July 17.
The opposition is believed to have sounded out former Governor Gopal Gandhi and former speaker Meira Kumar.
Sources, however, say the BJP is clear – it has enough numbers to have the final word on the next President.