tmc: Presidential poll: TMC happy to be in centre stage as Yashwant Sinha chosen joint opposition nominee

The Trinamool Congress leadership is elated that major non-BJP parties on Tuesday selected former union minister Yashwant Sinha, a top office bearer of the regional party, as the joint opposition candidate for the upcoming presidential election, as they feel it would pivot the Mamata Banerjee-led party to the national centre stage.

This is the first time that a TMC leader has been nominated a candidate for a presidential election.

Leaders of 13 non-BJP parties, who gathered in New Delhi for a meeting convened by NCP chief Sharad Pawar to decide on a consensus candidate for the presidential election, agreed on Sinha’s name for the polls to be held on July 18.

Soon after, TMC supremo and West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee congratulated the 85-year-old veteran leader.

She tweeted: “I would like to congratulate Shri @YashwantSinha on becoming the consensus candidate, supported by all progressive opposition parties, for the upcoming Presidential Election. A man of great honour and acumen, who would surely uphold the values that represent our great nation!”

Sinha, a former BJP leader, joined the TMC last year ahead of the assembly polls and was made a national vice-president of the party.

TMC national general secretary Abhishek Banerjee, who attended the opposition meeting, also congratulated Sinha.

“Yashwant Sinha Ji’s nomination as the joint opposition candidate is a matter of great pride for all of us. This has helped us in emerging as a glue of the opposition camp. It is our proposal that was endorsed by others. This is a step forward, and it has given birth to new hopes in the opposition camp,” a senior TMC leader said.

Before Tuesday’s meeting of opposition parties, Mamata Banerjee on June 15 convened a similar meeting in New Delhi to decide on a common candidate for the presidential election.

The presence of representatives of 17 out of the 22 major opposition parties invited at that meeting brought back the focus on her national ambitions of the regional outfit which faced dismal showing recently in Goa and Tripura where it had put up candidates.

The presidential election is conducted indirectly through an electoral college consisting of elected members of Parliament and legislative assemblies of states and Union territories.

In an electoral college of around 10.86 lakh votes, the BJP-led alliance has about 48 per cent of the votes and is likely to be supported by regional parties such as the BJD.

Analysts said putting up Sinha, a former Minister and close confidante of late Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee who still enjoys a lot of prestige in political circles, was a strategic move to underline the differences in functioning styles of the BJP government under Vajpayee and that under Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

Sinha, a former IAS who joined politics in 1984 to join the Janata Dal, was finance minister in the short-lived Chandra Shekhar government in 1990-91. He later joined the BJP to be a Minister for Finance and later Minister for External Affairs in the Vajpayee government which ruled between 1989-2004.

“The numbers may not be in our favour, but in politics, nothing is impossible. And more than a victory, it is about sending out a message that the opposition camp has put up a united fight,” the TMC leader said.

Earlier in the day, Sinha said that he will “step aside” from the TMC to work for the larger national cause of Opposition unity, amid indications that he is being considered as the Opposition’s joint candidate for the presidential elections.

According to party sources, he submitted his resignation to the party in the evening.

Sinha’s name came up after NCP chief Sharad Pawar, former West Bengal governor Gopalkrishna Gandhi and National Conference leader Farooq Abdullah opted out of the race.

The parties that attended Tuesday’s meeting included the Congress, NCP, TMC, CPI, CPI-M, Samajwadi Party, National Conference, AIMIM, RJD and AIUDF.

Five regional parties considered non-aligned – TRS, BJD. AAP, SAD and YSRCP — stayed away. These parties had also stayed away from the June 15 meeting convened by West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee.

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