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Mamata meets Sharad Pawar ahead of mega meet

Mamata meets Sharad Pawar ahead of mega meet

New Delhi: West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee on Tuesday met Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) chief Sharad Pawar in Delhi, a day before Opposition parties are scheduled to meet in the national Capital to discuss the upcoming polls to elect the next President of India.

The Congress also agreed to sign up for the mega meeting. Party insiders said Congress leader Mallikarjun Kharge, who is also the Leader of Opposition in Rajya Sabha, Jairam Ramesh, and Randeep Surjewala are supposed to attend the meeting on behalf of the party.

Tuesday was the day of Opposition parties as leaders of some major political outfits held hectic parleys ahead of the scheduled meeting of the Opposition. Banerjee is in the national Capital for the meeting she has convened on Wednesday to explore the possibility of formulating a common strategy with other Opposition parties for the Presidential poll where the BJP-led NDA has an unmistakable edge but does not have the numbers for a sure-shot victory.

Banerjee arrived in Delhi on Tuesday afternoon and straight went to visit Pawar before going to her residence. The meeting lasted for an hour.

Trinamool Congress tweeted: "Two stalwart leaders set the stage for the meeting of all progressive opposition forces; set to happen tomorrow at the Constitution Club, New Delhi. Our resolve to fight divisive forces grows stronger!"

Following the meeting of the Trinamool Congress supremo with the NCP chief, CPI(M) Politburo Sitaram Yechury, CPI general secretary D Raja, NCP's Praful Patel met Pawar at his residence separately to try and convince him to be the common Opposition candidate for the top constitutional post. However, as per sources, the Maratha strongman has refused to be in the race. Amid reports that CPI(M) may not attend the meeting, Yechury has assigned Elamaram Kareem, a Rajya Sabha MP, to represent the Left parties in the meeting.

The West Bengal Chief Minister has called around 22 parties for the meeting. She has personally invited Congress interim president Sonia Gandhi, Maharashtra Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray, CPM general secretary Sitaram Yechury, Odisha CM Naveen Patnaik and former Bihar CM Lalu Prasad Yadav for the meeting to pick a common candidate of the Opposition parties for the Presidential poll, which is scheduled to be held on July 18. Other invitees include Tamil Nadu CM MK Stalin, Telangana CM K Chandrashekar Rao, Delhi CM Arvind Kejriwal, Punjab CM Bhagwant Mann and Pawar himself.

Almost all the Opposition leaders are slated to attend the meeting called by Banerjee and take forward the discussion on fielding a common candidate.

Meanwhile, some leaders have reached out to former West Bengal Governor Gopalkrishna Gandhi as a possible choice, sources said on Tuesday.

Gandhi was the consensus Opposition candidate for the post of Vice-President of India in 2017, but had lost to M Venkaiah Naidu in the election.

Sources said some Opposition leaders talked to Gandhi over phone and urged him to consider their request.

The sources added that some other names are also being considered and the Opposition leaders have reached out to them also to seek their consent.

Gandhi (77), who was Governor of West Bengal from 2004 to 2009, has also served as India's High Commissioner to South Africa and Sri Lanka. He is the grandson of Mahatma Gandhi and C Rajagopalachari.

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

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