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Congress president Sonia Gandhi to lead opposition to field a common candidate for presidential polls

Congress president Sonia Gandhi has taken a lead getting the opposition to field a common candidate for the coming presidential polls.

She has also assured all opposition parties that her party would actively participate in mass agitations and protests to counter the Narendra Modi-Amit Shah juggernaut. This, said sources, would contribute to the much-needed “alternative narrative”, which needs to be built to oppose the BJP.

She met JD(U) chief and Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar, CPI-M general secretary Sitaram Yechury, CPI leader D. Raja and most recently, JD(U) Rajya Sabha member Sharad Yadav on Tuesday night. She also met Nationalist Congress Party chief Sharad Pawar on Wednesday evening.  “Though talks with the Congress president focused on the need to field a common opposition presidential candidate, she also said there was a need to come together on mass movements,” Mr Raja said.

A senior JD-U leader said Ms Gandhi said the Congress was ready to take the lead in any such agitation. The last time all opposition parties came together was after demonetisation.

The Congress with TMC, SP, BSP, Left and NCP had held three marches to the Rashtrapati Bhawan. It had also held seminars on the note ban.

CPI-M general secretary Sitaram Yechury has already said that instead of falling into the trap of the BJP-RSS narrative, the opposition needs to counter Mr Modi on an alternative narrative with mass agitations highlighting the “failed” economic policies and the state of agrarian distress in the country.

After the BJP’s impressive win in Assembly elections in the five states, especially the massive mandate it received in Uttar Pradesh, there are increased efforts among opposition parties to come together. Even BSP supremo Maywati has said she was ready to come on a common platform before the 2019 general elections. The presidential polls in July are seen to be the first such experiment of a united opposition.

Sources, meanwhile, said that the Congress chief met or spoke with almost all senior leaders of major opposition and regional parties. Channels have also been opened with parties like the Biju Janata Dal and the Shiv Sena, who have been lately miffed with the rise of the BJP in their respective states of Odisha and Maharashtra.

While leaders maintained that no names have been discussed as of now, the names of NCP’s Sharad Pawar and JD-U’s Sharad Yadav are doing the rounds as possible candidates for the presidential polls in July. However, the Left parties have maintained that they were interested in a non–political candidate. Earlier they had also mooted that President Pranab Mukherjee should be fielded for a possible second term.

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