Seventeen major Opposition parties on June 21 reached a consensus on pitching former Union minister Yashwant Sinha as their joint candidate for the presidential polls.
"We have unanimously decided that Yashwant Sinha will be the common candidate of the Opposition for the presidential elections," Congress leader Jairam Ramesh, who attended the meeting of Opposition parties in New Delhi, told the media.
"We are going to file the nomination for the presidential elections on 27th June at 11.30 am," added Sharad Pawar, the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) chief, who also attended the meet.
In a joint statement, the Opposition bloc also appealed to the Centre-ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and its allies to extend support to Sinha, in order to get him elected unopposed.
"Ideally, a consensus candidate of the government and the Opposition should be elected for the highest office of the Republic. However, the initiative for this should have been taken by the government. We regret the fact that the Modi government made no serious efforts in this direction. We, therefore, appeal to the BJP and its allies to support the candidature of Sinha so that the nation can have a worthy Rashtrapati elected unopposed," it added.he tweeted his about his decision to leave the Trinamool Congress (TMC), the party he joined last year, "for a larger national cause".
I am grateful to Mamataji for the honour and prestige she bestowed on me in the TMC. Now a time has come when for a larger national cause I must step aside from the party to work for greater opposition unity. I am sure she approves of the step.
— Yashwant Sinha (@YashwantSinha) June 21, 2022
The development comes after Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) chief Sharad Pawar, National Conference leader Farooq Abdullah and former West Bengal governor Gopalkrishna Gandhi declined to stand for the top job as Opposition's candidate.
The last date for filing nominations for the presidential elections is June 29. The polling will take place on July 18 and the votes will be counted on July 21. The term of President Ram Nath Kovind ends on July 24 and the next president should be elected before that day.
While the Opposition has finalised Sinha as their candidate, the ruling BJP is yet to reveal whether it would pitch a new candidate or re-nominate Kovind for another term.
Sinha, notably, is a former IAS officer who took the political plunge in the 1980s. He had joined the Janata Party after quitting the civil services, and was elected to the Rajya Sabha in 1988. Between 1990 and 1991, under the Janata Dal-led government, he served as the Union finance minister.
Subsequently, he switched to the BJP and was elected as the party's Lok Sabha MP from Hazaribagh in 1998, 1999, and 2009. Under the Atal Bihari Vajpayee-led government, he had served as the Union finance and external affairs minister. He had snapped ties with the saffron party in 2018, claiming that the country's "democracy is in great danger".
The Opposition's statement notes that Sinha is their presidential nominee as he has "served the nation in various capacities as an able administrator, accomplished parliamentarian and acclaimed Union minister"."He is eminently qualified to uphold secular and democratic character of the Indian Republic and its constitutional values," they further added.