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Presidential poll: Opposition sets up a contest, fields Yashwant Sinha

New Delhi, June 21

The opposition on Tuesday set up a contest for the July 18 presidential election by fielding 85 year old Yashwant Sinha as its common candidate to “uphold the secular and democratic character of the Indian Republic.”

Thirteen parties unanimously chose Sinha after a second meeting of the opposition held in the Parliament annexe on Tuesday to finalise a consensus nominee after NCP chief Sharad Pawar, Mahatma Gandhi’s grandson Gopalkrishna Gandhi and National Conference patron Farooq Abdullah opted out of the race.

The participating outfits included Congress, NCP, TMC, CPM, CPI, RSP, SP, NC, AIMIM, RJD, CPIML, AIUDF, and the DMK.

Pawar said the candidature of Sinha also had the support of AAP convenor Arvind Kejriwal, Telangana CM and TRS chief K Chandrashekhar Rao, SP chief Akhilesh Yadav and RJD’s Tejashwi Yadav to whom “he had personally spoken.” AAP and TRS were however absent from today’s meeting so were the BJD, YSRCP and BSP.

AIMIM, which was absent at the first meeting of the opposition on June 15, came today.

Sinha, a former NDA leader who held finance and external affairs portfolios in the erstwhile BJP led governments, resigned from the TMC today to run as an unaffiliated candidate for the presidential election.

Accepting what is pitted to be a symbolic fight, with the ruling NDA comfortably placed in the electoral college, Sinha said, “A time has come when for a larger national cause I must step aside from the party to work for greater opposition unity.”

Announcing the decision of the opposition (minus YSRCP, BJD, BSP) to field the former bureaucrat turned politician Sinha in the key race, Congress leader Jairam Ramesh today said Sinha was the unanimous choice as a common candidate of the opposition.

Ramesh said the government did not make a serious effort to work up a consensus on the presidential nominee. “Ideally a consensus candidate of the government and the opposition should be elected for the highest office of the Republic. However the initiative for this should have been taken by the government. We regret the fact that the Modi government made no serious efforts in this direction. We therefore appealed to all political parties to support the candidature of Yashwant Sinha so that the nation can have a worthy president elected unopposed,” an opposition statement said.

Pawar later noted he had not been able to speak with Odisha CM Naveen Patnaik, Andhra Pradesh CM YS Jagan Mohan Reddy and BSP chief Mayawati and will try to engage them for support to Sinha.

The joint opposition meanwhile formed a committee to steer Sinha’s campaign, which began working today.

Sinha will file his nomination on June 27 at 11 AM.

The opposition, while explaining its decision to field a candidate for the presidential election, said, “Mr Sinha is eminently qualified to uphold the secular and democratic character of the Indian Republic and its constitutional values…India is passing through difficult times. The BJP government has failed totally in fulfilling its promises and commitments. Furthermore it is misusing the Enforcement Directorate, Central Bureau of Investigation, Election Commission, governors’ offices and other institutions as weapons against opposition parties and state governments.”

The opposition also said the unity shown today would continue in the future.

“We assure the people of India that the unity of the opposition parties, which has been forged for the presidential election in a spirit of equality, common commitments and consensus building through dialogue will be further consolidated in the months ahead,” the joint statement said even though prominent opposition outfits AAP, BSP, and TRS remained absent.

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