Will Gopalkrishna Gandhi emerge as Oppn pick?

Although the Opposition’s June 15 meet on picking a consensus candidate ended inconclusively, Mamata Banerjee‘s surprise move of naming former diplomat Gopalkrishna Gandhi is creating quite a buzz. The next meeting of major opposition parties to deliberate on a candidate is likely to be held on June 20-21 and will be convened by NCP chief Sharad Pawar in Mumbai.

After NCP Supremo, Sharad Pawar, turned down Mamata Banerjee’s offer to be the opposition’s presidential candidate, West Bengal CM at the end of the meeting took the names of Gopal Gandhi and National Conference leader Farooq Abdullah.

The CPI(M) and other Left parties had suggested Gandhi’s name in the 2017 Presidential polls but the mantle fell on Congress’ Meira Kumar after the BJP chose Ram Nath Kovind. Gandhi was later persuaded to fight the Vice President election as Opposition candidate. At a time when the numbers are heavily tilted towards the ruling coalition, the Opposition believes that a Gandhi in the fray, especially during the 75th year of independence, will be a strong political message.

The ideological plank

Opposition, especially the Left, would like to project the electoral battle for the top constitutional post as one of “Gandhi versus Godse” in a year the country is celebrating the 75th year of independence. This expression was conveyed by the Sitaram Yechury categorically in an interview to India Today.

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A political message

“The principal issue in this election to the President of India is to safeguard our country we were born in where all citizens are equal ‘irrespective of caste, creed or sex’. It’s a Gandhi vs Godse election,” CPI(M) General Secretary Sitaram Yechury tweeted. In an interview to India Today, Yechury reiterated “Opposition is united. The need of the hour is to have a person who as the custodian of the Indian constitution, will uphold the constitution and safeguard the constitution.”

The principal issue in this election to the President of India is to safeguard our country we were born in where al… https://t.co/bqSUIA8Noo

— Sitaram Yechury (@SitaramYechury) 1655314637000

However, the former West Bengal governor on Wednesday said it is “too premature” for him to comment on it. When asked about the possibility of him contesting the presidential polls, Gandhi told news agency PTI, “It is too premature to comment on it.”

A credible name

He has also served as India’s High Commissioner to South Africa and Sri Lanka. Gandhi, who is the grandson of Mahatma Gandhi and C Rajagopalachari, 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.

The decision of some key regional parties to skip the opposition meet called by West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee on the presidential poll has cheered the ruling BJP as it believes that their absence has only highlighted the faultlines and one-upmanship among its rivals.

On Wednesday, Rajanth Singh called Bihar CM Navin Kumar, Odisha’s Patnaik along with other key leaders. The BJP is comfortable to get its presidential candidate elected provided some parties like BJD and YSR Congress support it.

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William Murphy

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