CHIEF MINISTER Mamata Banerjee met Congress president Sonia Gandhi at her 10, Janpath residence on Tuesday afternoon but denied that names for the next Presidential face had been discussed. “We did not discuss any names for the post of President. The Opposition should come together to create consensus. We did discuss important matters related to politics and the presidential elections,” Mamata said after the meeting.
President Pranab Mukherjee’s term comes to an end in July and there have been hectic meetings between Opposition parties for the past few weeks to decide on a consensus candidate against the NDA nominee.
With YSR Congress and AIADMK deciding to side with the NDA, the ruling coalition’s chances of installing its own candidate at Rashtrapati Bhavan are seen to be increasing but the Opposition too has taken it as a prestige battle. Mamata said she would attend RJD chief Lalu Prasad’s ‘BJP Hatao Desh Bachao’ rally in August. She may also meet Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal next week. Kejriwal and Mamata share an excellent equation with the Delhi CM often dropping in for dinner at Mamata’s nephew Lok Sabha MP Abhishek’s flat in South Avenue when the West Bengal CM comes to Delhi.
As Mamata met Gandhi, the Congress shied away from commenting on Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar remark that nothing can be better than giving Mukherjee a second term as President. Congress communication department head Randeep Surjewala said the party is “extremely proud” that Mukherjee “comes from a pedigree of thought process and an ideology that has been a centre point of this country from its formation until today.”
“The post of President and Vice-President is intrinsic to our democratic set up. For not only is the President the commander of our armed forces, he is also the protector of our Constitution. It is also the role of the President or Vice-President to counsel the Government when it loses its way. So bereft of political partisanship, you need on these two individuals who will be able to uphold the highest principles as enshrined in the Constitution,” he said.
On the Opposition candidate, he said Congress president Sonia Gandhi and Vice-President Rahul Gandhi will “consult with various people….the leaders of other political parties and we will try and build a consensus around it.”
Meanwhile, Mamata termed as “political vendetta” the raids on Congress leader P Chidambaram and RJD chief Lalu Prasad.Targeting the Modi government in a veiled manner, she said: “If you do not like someone, then you send CBI, then put him in jail… some political vendetta is going on…. Whatever is happening today… sometimes with (SP leader) Akhilesh (Yadav), sometimes with (Odisha Chief Minister) Naveen Patnaik, sometimes with Laluji, Chidambaram, (Delhi Chief Minister Arvind) Kejriwal…”. She added that even the media is under “tremendous pressure” from the government. “…What is on since morning, that was also discussed,” Mamata said about the raids after meeting Sonia.
In an apparent message to the Modi government, Mamata asked: “If you fight with everybody then who is left out?”