As Mamata Banerjee called a meeting of Opposition parties to discuss Presidential elections, Congress has given a subtle message to the West Bengal Chief Minister and Trinamool Congress supremo that it is still in charge while reminding that the “time is ripe to rise above our differences” and discussions need to be “open minded”.
Amid a section in the Opposition not willing to accept Congress’ pole position in the Opposition grouping owing to its diminished electoral clout, the party recalled that its chief Sonia Gandhi had on June 9 reached out to leaders like NCP chief Sharad Pawar and Mamata on the issue of the upcoming Presidential elections.
The party made it clear that Sonia deputed Leader of Opposition in Rajya Sabha Mallikarjun Kharge to coordinate with other leaders in view of her ill health owing to Covid-19. This was done in consultation with leaders, including Mamata, it said.
The Congress articulation of position came hours after Trinamool Congress publicised letters written by Mamata to 22 Opposition leaders, including Sonia, inviting them to a meeting for a discussion on Presidential elections in Delhi on June 15.
Mamata’s move was seen in a section of the Opposition as an attempt to usurp leadership role in the Opposition and that she was leading a group of anti-Congress parties like the TRS, AAP and Akali Dal.
Amid some parties insisting that the joint candidate for the July 18 Presidential elections should be non-Congress, the Congress said that it has not suggested a particular name as a candidate. However, it reminded that all of them owe it to the people to elect a President, who can “apply a healing touch to its fractured social fabric and defend our Constitution”.
“Congress is of the opinion that the Nation needs a person as President, who can protect the Constitution, our institutions and citizenry from the ongoing onslaught by the ruling party. This is the need of the hour,” the party said.
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“The time is ripe to rise above our differences for the sake of our Nation and its people. Discussions and deliberations have to be open minded and in keeping with this spirit. We believe that INC along with other political parties should be taking this discussion forward,” it added.
The Congress remarks came as some Opposition leaders felt that Mamata’s “unilateral move” to call a meeting had the “potential of only helping the BJP instead of uniting all secular forces”.
CPI(M) General Secretary Sitaram Yechury, who has been invited by Mamata, on Saturday told DH, “these meetings are decided after consultations and agreement on a mutually convenient date. Usually, the single largest party takes the initiative. Such consultations (for a meeting) were going on when a unilateral letter was sent and publicised.”
There is a need to find a “strong political candidate” and Mamata’s effort is to set up an Opposition platform, Trinamool Congress leaders insisted while adding the candidate, probably a non-Congress person, will evolve through “organic” consultations.