New Delhi: Union Ministers Rajnath Singh and Venkaiah Naidu met Congress chief Sonia Gandhi and senior CPM leader Sitaram Yechury today to discuss the election of the next President.
Asked if any consensus had emerged, senior Congress leader Mallikarjun Kharge -- who was present at the 30-minute meeting along with Ghulam Nabi Azad - told NDTV, "When they have not given any names, there is no question of consensus". The two leaders, it appeared, had come to only to meet and seek cooperation not consensus, he said. "They said after they decide, we will discuss."
The two heavyweight central ministers are part of the three-member team formed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Amit Shah to evolve a consensus on who should replace President Pranab Mukherjee.
The Left is known to be keen on a token election, even though the opposition does not have the numbers.
But a section of the opposition favours a wait and watch policy -- hoping to take a call only when the NDA names its Presidential candidate. Approval is subject to a wishlist that includes a respect for the Constitution and a non-RSS background.
Mr Naidu has also sought appointments with NCP chief Sharad Pawar and BSP's Mayawati. TDP's Chandrababu Naidu has said he would support Prime Minister Narendra Modi's choice.
Last month, the opposition parties had met at a lunch hosted by Sonia Gandhi to take a decision on a candidate acceptable to all the attending parties. Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, who came for the lunch but had also met PM Modi the day before, had suggested that the government and the opposition could find a consensus candidate.
While the NDA is yet to announce any names, there is a strong buzz about Union minister Sushma Swaraj being the front-runner in the race to the Rashtrapati Bhavan. The External Affairs Minister commands great respect cutting across party lines. The other contenders include Social Justice Minister Thawar Chand Gehlot, Lok Sabha speaker Sumitra Mahajan and Jharkhand Governor Draupadi Murmu.
While the opposition has not drawn up a final list, a number of names have been under consideration -- Former Governor Gopal Krishna Gandhi, former Lok Sabha Speaker Meira Kumar and Nationalist Congress Party chief Sharad Pawar.