Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) president Amit Shah on Saturday said his party would consult opposition parties before deciding on the NDA's presidential candidate. His comments come as the opposition parties have been working to forge unity over a joint presidential candidate but have indicated the willingness to accept ruling alliance's pick for the top post in case the government attempts to build a consensus.
Shah, however, parried a query on whether the BJP would reach out to the Opposition to build a consensus on a candidate.
"Consensus is a word that it is used in several ways. But we will hold discussions with everybody, including opposition parties," he told news agency PTI during an interaction.
Parties like the Congress, Mamata Banerjee-led TMC and the Left have spoken about fielding a "secular" opposition candidate if the BJP-led NDA picks a nominee with Hindutva leanings.
However, the ruling block is unlikely to be perturbed with the stand of the opposition parties as numbers in the presidential electoral college favour it.
Shah declined to speak about likely names from the NDA for the president's post, claiming they have not decided on anyone yet.
"We have not decided on any name yet. We will first talk to our NDA allies. Then we will talk to opposition parties," he said.
Congress president Sonia Gandhi had yesterday met with the leaders of opposition parties to discuss the strategy for the presidential polls. West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee, who attended Gandhi's lunch for 17 opposition parties here, said no names were discussed at the lunch-cum-meeting at the Parliament House Library.
The main opposition party, Congress is seeking greater unity among non-NDA parties ahead of the presidential election which could be taken forward to the upcoming assembly polls in states such as Gujarat, Himachal Pradesh and Karnataka, besides the Lok Sabha elections in 2019.
Efforts are on to bring arch political rivals in Uttar Pradesh -- the Samajwadi Party and the Bahujan Samaj Party-- together on a common opposition platform ahead of the presidential poll.
Several names have been doing the rounds as probable candidates. Among them are former West Bengal Governor and Mahatma Gandhi's grandson Gopal Krishna Gandhi, former JD(U) president Yadav, Former Lok Sabha speaker Meira Kumar and NCP chief Sharad Pawar. The NCP leader has, however, ruled himself out of the race.
The electoral college for the presidential polls has a total of 11,04,546 votes with the BJP-led NDA's tally currently standing at about 5.38 lakh votes.
The NDA crossed the majority mark in the electoral college after the YSRCP, the Andhra Pradesh party headed by Jagan Mohan Reddy, announced his outfit's support for the ruling combine and the TRS, which is in power in Telangana, indicated that it will follow suit.
The BJP is also hopeful of getting the support of both the factions of the AIADMK, which is in power in Tamil Nadu.
The presidential election is due in July and the poll to the post of the vice president is scheduled for August.
The electoral college for picking the vice president is clearly in the BJP-led NDA's favour with the alliance having the support of 418 members out of 787, the combined strength of the Lok Sabha and the Rajya Sabha.
(With PTI inputs)