NEW DELHI: The government on Friday formally began its outreach with the opposition on the presidential election with senior ministers Rajnath Singh and M. Venkaiah Naidu meeting Congress President Sonia Gandhi, but placed no name of its nominee, forcing the party to rule out any cooperation on a consensus.
Instead, the BJP team sought from the Congress leadership the name of the opposition candidate for the July 17 election.
"The BJP leaders did not give any name to Congress President Sonia Gandhi but they wanted us to reveal the name of our candidate. We were expecting them to disclose the name so that we can discuss it in our party and other opposition parties. Since no names were given from the government side and since no names are being given, there is no question of any discussion and cooperation," Ghulam Nabi Azad, who was present at the meeting, told reporters later.
"They should give us the name and then seek cooperation," he said.
Asked about the possibility of a consensus, senior leader Mallikarjun Kharge, who was also present, said the ministers have not given any names.
"When they have not given any names, then where is the question of consensus. If they give the names, then only we can discuss it with our allies and other political party leaders. When they have not given specific names - or one or two, three, like that - (then) there is no question of consensus. If they come with some name, we could have considered."
Questioned about the purpose of the meeting, Kharge said, "That is only to meet and they are seeking cooperation. And what I can guess is just they are seeking cooperation because they have already got something in their mind. That's why they have not given the name."
Asked if the Congress has suggested any names, Kharge replied, "The question does not arise as all opposition parties have a common stand that if they would have shared any name then we could shared our name. When they did not share any name, the question of suggesting our name does not arise."
Singh and Naidu are part of the three-member team constituted by Bharatiya Janata Party President Amit Shah for discussion with political parties for the presidential polls.
The two BJP leaders are scheduled to meet CPI-M General Secretary Sitaram Yechury as part of efforts to reach a consensus.
Naidu has already spoken with NCP chief Sharad Pawar, Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister N. Chandrababu Naidu, who is also chief of ally TDP, PMK leader Anbumani Ramadoss and N. Rangaswamy of the All India Congress (NR) and sought their cooperation.
While the Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister has assured that his party would stand by the decision of the Prime Minister, Pawar told him that he would come to Delhi and discuss the issue.