Prez polls: Fissures in opposition?

The issue of fielding a candidate against NDA Presidential nominee appears to be unravelling the Opposition unity, with the CPI(M) insisting that they should contest for the top post at any cost.

Fissures have developed among parties over the issue as a section of parties led by Congress are of the view that they should wait till the ruling BJP finishes the consultation process and see whether they could come up with a “moderate” face for the post.

The opposition parties may have their own compulsions on voting. Like BJD which could vote on government side if Draupadi Murmu, an Odia who is now Jharkhand Governor, is fielded, the NCP may support a Maharashtrian fielded by the BJP. Congress and Trinamool Congress would also weigh in options before going ahead with a joint opposition candidate.

With some of them amenable to such a candidate from the ruling side, the CPI(M) is insisting that the opposition should not leave the opportunity for a “political battle” and contest the Presidential polls.

As the BJP initiated the process of consultation on candidate, the majority view among opposition parties is to wait for the proposals from the ruling side before taking any step on its candidate. This was echoed in a meeting of opposition parties on Wednesday.

However, CPI(M) General Secretary Sitaram Yechury said that even if NDA fields a candidate and some of them supports, the opposition should field a candidate.

He got support in RJD chief Lalu Prasad who is learnt to have insisted that “there should not be any ideological compromise” in the fight against BJP.

This could be music to the ears of the Left as they are not averse to a 2002-type scenario where they field contest. In 2002 when almost entire Opposition joined hands with NDA to support A P J Abdul Kalam, CPI(M)-led Left had fielded INA war veteran Captain Lakshmi as its candidate.

Sources said the opposition camp would not jump the gun on the candidate and one could expect a decision by June 24 or 25. Reports suggested that BJP may finalise the name by June 23, a day before Prime Minister Narendra Modi is embarking on a visit to the United States.

Senior BJP Minister M Venkaiah Naidu, one of the three senior leaders in the committee of three set up by party president Amit Shah, has already reached out to Congress chief Sonia Gandhi, Yechury and leaders of NCP and BSP among others for consultation.

However, Left sources believe consultation is a government tactics to “create confusion and division” in the opposition ranks. They believe it is to push their own candidate at the last minute where opposition has no time to recalibrate its strategy.

They don’t want to give time to opposition. They have a strategy and we are going to fall into it,” a senior Left leader said.

(An edited version appeared in Deccan Herald on Jun 15, 2017)

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