Sources said the next round of discussions involving the Opposition leaders will take place on June 21 at Parliament Annexe. Leaders of 17 Opposition parties had huddled last week where a decision was taken to field a consensus candidate.
West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, who had convened the June 15 meeting is likely to skip the next round of discussions due to prior engagements. Mamata had requested Pawar to take the lead in organising the second meeting.
While the leaders who attended the meeting last week were unanimous on fielding Pawar, the veteran leader had turned down the offer saying, “I am happy to continue my service for the well-being of the common man.”
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At the meeting, Banerjee had floated the names of Abdullah and Gandhi as alternate candidates. But on Saturday, Abdullah also declined the offer, leaving only Gandhi in the contention.
Even in 2017, the Opposition camp had wanted to field Gandhi as its Presidential candidate, but the NDA’s decision to pick Ram Nath Kovind as its face had forced a rethink. Eventually, former Lok Sabha Speaker Meira Kumar, also a Dalit like Kovind, was fielded by the Opposition.