Former West Bengal Governor Gopalkrishna Gandhi on Monday, June 20, declined the opposition leaders' request to contest the upcoming presidential election, the third person to do so after NCP supremo Sharad Pawar and Former Jammu and Kashmir chief minister Farooq Abdullah also gave the offer a pass. The development complicates the road ahead for the Opposition to put up a joint consensus candidate in the presidential polls to take on the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance nominee.
The next meeting of major opposition parties to deliberate on a consensus candidate for the presidential election is likely to be held on Tuesday. In a statement, Gandhi said several esteemed leaders of the Opposition have done him the honour of thinking of him for the opposition's candidature in the upcoming elections for the presidency.
"I am most grateful to them. But having considered the matter deeply I see that the Opposition's candidate should be one who will generate a national consensus and a national atmosphere besides Opposition unity. I feel there will be others who will do this far better than I," he said.
"And so I have requested the leaders to give the opportunity to such a person. May India get a President worthy of the office presaged by Rajaji as the last Governor General and inaugurated by Dr Rajendra Prasad as our first President," Gandhi said.
The 77-year-old former bureaucrat had also served as India's High Commissioner to South Africa and Sri Lanka. He is the grandson of Mahatma Gandhi and C Rajagopalachari. Gandhi was the consensus opposition candidate for the post of Vice President of India in 2017 but had lost to M Venkaiah Naidu in the election.
Gandhi's statement came two days after former Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister and National Conference leader Abdullah withdrew his name as the potential joint opposition candidate for the upcoming presidential elections, saying he has a "lot more active politics" ahead of him, and that he wanted to contribute in navigating the Union Territory through the current "critical juncture".
Leaders of several opposition parties last Wednesday urged NCP supremo Sharad Pawar to be the joint opposition candidate for the presidential elections, but the veteran leader had declined the offer at the meeting convened by West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee here. After Pawar had declined the offer, Banerjee later suggested the names of Abdullah and Gandhi as possible opposition candidates.
As many as 17 opposition parties had attended the opposition meeting to build a consensus on fielding a joint candidate against the BJP-led NDA. The process to elect a new president began on June 15. The last date for filing nominations is June 29. The polls, if necessary, will be held on July 18 and the counting on July 21.