mamata: Territory war? Mamata Banerjee calls for a presidential ballot and raises her eyebrows | India News

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NEW DELHI: In a parallel move to Congress leader Sonia Gandhi’s initiative to rally opposition parties for fielding a common presidential candidate, West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee wrote to 22 politicians on Saturday of non-BJP outfits for unity in the contest for Rashtrapati Bhavan, once again exposing the fissures and the tendency for one-upmanship within the anti-Modi camp.
Although Banerjee’s letter seeking a “fruitful confluence of opposition voices” in New Delhi on June 15 called for “strong and effective opposition against divisive forces” and asked CMs and opposition leaders to attending a “joint meeting” in the nation’s capital, the missive left Congress and others in the anti-BJP camp surprised and sparked an almost immediate reaction from CPM General Secretary Sitaram Yechury.
Describing the drafting of the letter to assemble opposition unity as a “one-sided” decision that would “harm opposition unity”, Yechury said June 15 had already been decided as the day the senior opposition party leaders including Congress Speaker Sonia Gandhi, NCP leader Sharad Pawar and Tamil Nadu Chief Minister MP Stalin will meet and discuss opposition strategy regarding the presidential elections.
“Normally, these meetings are decided after consultation and set at a mutually agreed date. Usually the larger party takes the initiative. These consultations for a meeting were already underway when the letter was sent unilaterally and made public,” Yechury said.
Opposition activity to identify a presidential candidate with ‘secular and progressive’ credentials began shortly after the election commission sounded the ballot on Thursday, when Sonia dialed Yechury, Pawar, Banerjee and the leader of the DMK, Stalin. She also tasked Congress leader Mallikarjun Kharge to sensitize like-minded parties as well as supporters of the BJD, YSRCP and TRS fence on whether they would side with the NDA or the opposition bloc during the presidential elections.
Some in the opposition camp argued that Mamata’s decision could not be considered a case of “precision”. A senior leader pointed out that without the BJD, YSRCP and TRS on the opposition side, a run for the presidency would only be symbolic as the NDA would comfortably garner the numbers it needs to elect its candidate.
“It’s not about ego. There is work to be done and that is to build a much needed opposition platform and identify a strong candidate,” a senior official said.
However, he acknowledged that cementing opposition ranks to prevent the BJP from electing one of its own as the next president will not be easy. While Mamata’s decision raised some irritation, many opposition members also point to the inability of Congress to win the support of regional satraps like Naveen Patnaik and K Chandrashekhar Rao, CMs of Odisha and Telangana, respectively.
“Congress must learn to give up space and accommodate a non-Congress candidate as an opposition presidential candidate,” an opposition leader said.
In response to Mamata’s letter, the Congress said that Sonia Gandhi had launched the discussions on the presidential election, forgetting all the political differences, because the requirement of the time is to find a candidate who, as president , can protect the Constitution. “Now is the time to overcome our differences for the good of the nation and its people,” the AICC said.



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