Top leaders of several opposition parties will go into a huddle on Friday at a luncheon hosted by Congress president Sonia Gandhi where they would explore the possibility of fielding a joint candidate for the presidential election.
Sources in these parties said the meeting is likely to be held in Parliament House complex and would be attended by leaders like West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, her Bihar counterpart Nitish Kumar, CPI-M’s Sitaram Yechury, RJD supremo Lalu Prasad and JD(U) veteran Sharad Yadav, who is himself a possible contender for the top constitutional post.
Banerjee, who is also the TMC chief, is already in the national capital, and is likely to meet Sonia Gandhi separately on Thursday.
Sources said invitations have been sent to JD(U), CPI, CPI-M, SP, DMK, NCP, RJD, TMC, besides some other big and small regional parties.
The main opposition Congress is seeking a larger unity among non-NDA parties ahead of the presidential election which could be taken forward to the upcoming assembly polls in states like Gujarat, Himachal Pradesh and Karnataka, besides the Lok Sabha elections in 2019.
Ahead of Friday’s meeting, a series of parleys have already happened between these leaders on the issue of putting up a joint opposition candidate to take on the official NDA nominee.
Efforts are on to bring arch political rivals in Uttar Pradesh– Samajwadi Party and Bahujan Samaj Party–together on a common opposition platform ahead of the presidential poll.
Several names have been doing the rounds of political circles as probables, including Gopal Krishna Gandhi, a grandson of Mahatma Gandhi and former West Bengal Governor, Sharad Yadav, a former JD(U) president, ex-Speaker of the Lok Sabha Meira Kumar and NCP chief Sharad Pawar. The NCP leader has, however, ruled himself out of the race.
Despite the parleys unanimity has so far eluded these parties.
Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar has also mooted a second term for incumbent Pranab Mukherjee and suggested that the ruling BJP should try and build a consensus on him.