Through the day, Union Ministers Rajnath Singh and M. Venkaiah Naidu, two of the three-member team set up by Mr. Shah (the third, Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley, was not in town) met Congress President Sonia Gandhi, Mr. Yechury, BJP veterans L.K. Advani and Murli Manohar Joshi, and had a telephonic conversation with the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) supremo Sharad Pawar.
A source said the two ministers informed Advani the panel had started talks with other leaders as directed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Shah, but did not refer to any likely candidates. The election is next year and the BJP has already shown that its battle ready by anointing its permanent disruptor, 74-year-old BS Yeddyurappa, as its Chief Ministerial face and getting SM Krishna to defect from the Congress. Shah recently said that Yeddyurappa will be the Chief Ministerial candidate despite the fact that he will be 75 at the time of voting and hence, by the BJP's own standards, ineligible for electoral politics.
Similarly, they said, the Congress had finalised the name of Pranab Mukherjee in 2012 as UPA's candidature after talking to its allies and not with the opposition.
The CPI (M) leader said the opposition parties would wait till the government completed the round of discussions with them to take a call on their nominee for the July 17 presidential election.
Mr. Yechury also told media that the BJP leaders have not proposed any name.
Yesterday, the first meeting between the government and the opposition on presidential elections remained inconclusive as no names were discussed by either side.
Clearly anticipating that the BJP is close to declaring the official nominee, the CPI (M) general secretary Sitaram Yechury on Saturday said that if the NDA failed to reveal its name for the Presidential election by June 20, he would exhort the Opposition to announce the joint candidate on June 21. 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.
With or without the Congress, the Left parties have chose to announce candidature of Gopal Krishna Gandhi by June 21, sources said.Gopal Krishna Gandhi is said to have also spoken to AAP convener Arvind Kejriwal, who promised support. "Our chief minister, along with senior ministers, will hold discussion and decide who to support, within two days", he told reporters. Azad and Mallikarjun Kharge were also present during the 30-minute meeting. "With no names being mentioned by the government, the matter could not make any headway". Till the time any name comes, there is no question of discussion or support, he said. So, it was expected they (government) will suggest some names.
"So, a candidate of the opposition is the one who has the mandate".
Congress sources said that the two ministers were having consultations to create an impression that the government was making an attempt to get the Opposition on board.
Naidu explained the twin objectives of the consultation process were to have the benefit of the views and suggestions of various parties in the matter and also to seek their support in the election.
The Shiv Sena which has been pushing for Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh chief Mohan Bhagwat as the next President, said a "Hindutva rubber stamp" should be installed at Rashtrapati Bhavan. We will think about it when they suggest a name. Nevertheless, the party had undertaken an exercise to know the mind of the opposition leaders, he said.
Congress says govt doesn't want consensus, but cooperation, Yechury dubs meeting as a public relation drill.
In the same breath, Sena President Uddhav Thackeray also said that if the BJP President has a good candidate, his party (Sena) would give it a thought.