Non-BJP parties are mulling putting up former union minister Yashwant Sinha as a possible joint candidate for the upcoming presidential election, a senior Trinamool Congress leader said on Monday. The name of the former BJP leader who joined the TMC last year has been proposed as a presidential poll candidate by a few opposition parties and three to four have seconded it, he said.
West Bengal Chief Minister and TMC supremo Mamata Banerjee has received phone calls suggesting the 85-year-old veteran leader’s name and she too is now pitching for Sinha as the joint opposition nominee, he said. Earlier, the names of NCP chief Sharad Pawar, National Conference leader Farooq Abdullah and former West Bengal governor Gopal Krishna Gandhi were proposed but all of them declined to stand for the top job.
The NDA which has over 48 per cent of the vote share in the electoral college which votes in a President, is likely to also be able to garner support from some smaller parties including the BJD and may finally muster over 52 per cent votes. However, the stature of the opposition candidate can ensure a close fight and give some uneasy moments to the ruling camp.
Analysts said putting up Sinha, a former Minister and close confidante of late Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee who still enjoys a lot of prestige in political circles, was a strategic move to underline the differences in functioning styles of the BJP government under Vajpayee and that under Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Sinha, a former IAS who joined politics in 1984 to join the Janata Dal, was finance minister in the short-lived Chandra Shekhar government in 1990-91. He later joined the BJP to be a Minister for Finance and later Minister for External Affairs in the Vajpayee government which ruled between 1989-2004. Yashwant Sinha is a TMC leader now. So, we don’t want any confusion that the proposal has gone from us. As of now, three to four parties have agreed on his name. Now let others decide, the senior TMC leader said.
Sinha’s name will be discussed at a meeting of major opposition parties convened by NCP chief Sharad Pawar in New Delhi to build a consensus on fielding a joint candidate against the BJP-led NDA on Tuesday. TMC national general secretary and MP Abhishek Banerjee will represent the party at the meeting.
Mamata Banerjee had called such a meeting of 22 non-BJP parties last week in the national capital. Seventeen of them attended it. Banerjee proposed Pawar, Abdullah and Gandhi as possible joint opposition candidate in the presidential election but all of them eventually turned down the request to stand for election. Sinha’s name surfaced thereafter.
The process to elect a new president began on June 15. The last date for filing nominations is June 29. The polls, if necessary, will be held on July 18 and the counting on July 21.