BJP meeting Opposition on presidential poll 'more like PR exercise': Sitaram Yechury

BJP panel to meet Sonia Gandhi, Sitaram Yechury on presidential candidate

But the BJP president made it clear that the party would hold another round of consultations with opposition parties; this time the committee would "go back to them with a name".

The other three-member committee, formed to hold parleys with the Opposition and NDA allies, includes information and broadcasting minister M. Venkaiah Naidu, finance minister Arun Jaitely and home minister Rajnath Singh.

While Rahul Gandhi has to contend with this aggressive, organised BJP, he must also try to lose the perception of the Congress as party of dynasty and usher in the complex rearrangement of younger leaders who will replace party stalwarts.

Shankersinh Vaghela, Gujarat state chief who defected from the BJP, and MLAs close to him, are all set for Ghar Wapsi (homecoming) to the BJP with reports of party president Amit Shah in direct contact with them.

Stepping out from the almost 30-minute meeting, Yechury told media persons that the BJP panel would meet them again.

On Wednesday, the opposition parties met to try to arrive at a consensus on a candidate.

The senior communist leader said the government side has assured they would come up with a name after three-four days and "sought our support".

At Friday's interaction, Congress chief Sonia Gandhi did not mince words in conveying to the two Union Ministers that she did not understand how the government could hope for a consensus without specific names. We have a candidate; we have absolute majority to get them elected. At a recent meeting of Opposition parties, the CPI (M) and RJD said the fight should be seen as an ideological one against the BJP. A source said Gehlot's name for vice-president's post is virtually sealed but Modi has to take a final call on the presidential candidate. "Since no name was given from the government's side, there is no question of any discussion and cooperation", said Azad.

The meeting, which lasted over 20 minutes, was also attended by senior Congress leader Mallikarjun Kharge. "With no names being mentioned by the government, the matter could not make any headway".

Talking to ANI here, Yechury said, "There was no question of talking any further". One name also doing the rounds is that of Vijay Pandurang Bhatkar, current Chancellor of Nalanda University, a technocrat who is considered the father of the Indian Supercomputer and president of the RSS-affiliated Vijnana Bharati, which promotes "swadeshi" science.

The numbers in the electoral college or value of votes are stacked in such a way that the candidate named by Prime Minister Narendra Modi or the BJP-led NDA is sure to win the election.

"We would have certainly thought about such a person, but they did not suggest any name". They said the government wants our cooperation.

Naidu on Thursday spoke to Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) chief Sharad Pawar and Telugu Desam Party (TDP) chief Chandrababu Naidu over the same.

Meanwhile, BJP ally Shiv Sena floated the name of eminent agriculture scientist M.S. Swaminathan for the top job if its "first choice" RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat was not acceptable.

Throughout the day, there were strong murmurs around Lok Sabha Speaker Sumitra Mahajan and external affairs minister Sushma Swaraj's name being proposed for President but none came on record to speak about the issue.

He said, the presidential nominee should have impeccable secular credentials. Sources said that the BJP high command is keen on him. Nevertheless, the party had undertaken an exercise to know the mind of the opposition leaders, he said.

Backing his stance, Congress leader Tom Vadakkan said it is the decision of the Government hereafter, adding that the representatives at the meeting were part of a "fact-finding committee".

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