New Delhi [India], June 15 (ANI): Congress leader Mallikarjun Kharge, who attended the meeting of opposition parties on presidential polls on Wednesday, made an apparently cryptic remark saying he was in the process of talking to like-minded parties to field a common candidate and Trinamool Congress Mamata Banerjee convened the meeting.
Emphasising that Congress will play a constructive role in ensuring that the opposition parties arrive at a consensus candidate, he also said parties opposed to the ruling BJP must remain "united and disciplined and not score political points against each other".
He said the unity opposition parties display will have implications beyond the presidential poll.
Congress and Trinamool Congress are rivals in Bengal and Tripura. There was also sparring between the two parties in the Goa assembly polls earlier this year. Mamata Banerjee, who is keen to bring opposition parties together against the BJP for the 2024 Lok Sabha polls, had not met Congress leaders during her visit to Maharashtra last year to meet leaders of the ruling Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA).
Mamata Banerjee's decision to convene a meeting of opposition parties on presidential polls is also being seen as a move to emerge as an anchor of the larger grouping opposed to the BJP for the 2024 Lok Sabha polls.
After Congress president Sonia Gandhi asked him to hold talks with opposition parties earlier this month on fielding a common candidate in presidential polls, Kharge had met NCP chief Sharad Pawar.
In his remarks at the meeting of opposition parties on Wednesday, Kharge said after the notification for the Presidential elections was released, Sonia Gandhi had asked him to speak to leaders of various parties "opposed to the divisive and destructive policies of the RSS/BJP to explore the possibility of a joint candidate".
"I had been in touch with a number of you. Now Mamataji has convened this meeting," he said.
"I want to right away say clearly that the Congress party will play a constructive role in ensuring that the parties assembled here this afternoon arrive at a consensus candidate in the next few days. Let us be proactive and not be reactive. The Congress Party has no particular candidate in mind. It will sit together with all of you and arrive at a candidate acceptable to all," he added.
He said the consensus candidate "should be someone committed to upholding the Constitution of India, its values, principles and provisions in letter and spirit, someone committed to guaranteeing that all institutions of our democracy function without fear or favour, someone committed to protecting the rights of all our citizens and preserving the secular fabric of our diverse society, someone committed to speaking out boldly against the forces of prejudice, hatred, bigotry and polarization and someone committed to being a powerful force for furthering social justice and empowerment".
Kharge, who is Leader of Opposition in Rajya Sabha, said many opposition parties compete with each other in assembly polls but have come together for the meeting and that the spirit should continue.
"I am aware that many of the parties around this table compete with each other in assembly elections. But that has not prevented this meeting from taking place. Each one of us has taken a larger national view and come here for a bigger cause. Let this spirit continue," he said.
"This is all I wish to say for the moment. Let me close by saying that we must remain united and disciplined and not score political points against each other. The unity we demonstrate now will have implications going well beyond the presidential polls," he added.
Kharge had said before the meeting of opposition parties that candidate for the upcoming Presidential elections cannot be elected without the Congress.
Voting for presidential elections will take place on July 18. (ANI)