Amid a flurry of activity by Opposition leaders for a consensus presidential candidate, speculation about the BJP candidate is rife in political circles. Elections to President’s office will be held on July 18. West Bengal Chief Minister and TMC leader Mamata Banerjee has convened a meeting of opposition leaders in the Constitution Club in New Delhi on June 15 to arrive at a consensus candidate.

Although many names as possible NDA candidate for the President’s office are doing the rounds, the key to the million dollar question lies with Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Home Minister Amit Shah. They may spring a surprise after notification for presidential elections is issued on June 15 by the Election Commission of India. According to sources, they may go for a tribal candidate. In that case, their preference can zero in on tribal leaders like Joel Oraon and Draupadi Murmu.

But there is resentment among some quarters in the BJP, according to sources, after Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi was not retained as a candidate to the Rajya Sabha. He was not given a ticket in the recently held Rampur by-elections for Lok Sabha, either. This has left the BJP devoid of a Muslim face in both houses of Parliament. The saffron party may field either Arif Mohammad Khan or Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi as its presidential candidate to fill that void. So far, Modi is learned to have not discussed the issue with any of the party leaders.

The impending elections have seen a flurry of activity among opposition parties. West Bengal Chief Minister and TMC leader Mamata Banerjee arrived in the national capital on Monday to meet various opposition leaders. Banerjee has called a meeting of Opposition leaders at the Constitution Club in New Delhi a day later on June 15 for deliberation on a consensus presidential candidate. She had written a letter to 22 opposition leaders, including left parties, Congress president Sonia Gandhi, Tamil Nadu Chief Minister MK Stalin, Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal, Maharashtra Chief Minister Udhav Thackeray, NCP chief Sharad Pawar and

Farooq Abdullah, among others, urging them to attend the June 15 meeting in New Delhi.

Initially, Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar and NCP leader Sharad Pawar had been proposed as possible Opposition candidates for President’s office, but both leaders have turned down the offer.

According to sources, several opposition parties are expected to join the meeting called by the TMC supremo. Congress leaders Mallikarjun Kharge, Jairam Ramesh and Randeep Surjewala may represent the Congress Party in the meeting. Communist Party of India (Marxist) General Secretary Sitaram Yechury has in a letter on Monday informed Banerjee that the leader of the party in the Rajya Sabha Elamaram Kareem will participate in the meeting.

Cracks in the opposition ranks have widened after RS polls, however, and many opposition leaders cannot see eye to eye. Chandrababu Naidu and Jagan Mohan Reddy, for example, are at loggerheads. There is biter bickering going on between JD(S) and Congress in Karnataka.

The Opposition may throw a consensus candidate, but chances of a win are slim. The ruling BJP-led NDA has a little less than half the total 10.79 lakh votes, but would need support from the YSR Congress and Biju Janata Dal to send its candidate to Raisina Hill. The NDA is falling short of about 13,000 votes. Both parties had extended support to BJP-led NDA candidate Ram Nath Kovind in the last elections.

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