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Kolkata: Sharad Pawar’s refusal to become the unanimous opposition candidate for the post of the next President of India should be seen as a setback for Mamata Banerjee who had tried to hog the limelight by organising a joint meeting of opposition parties at New Delhi. Although some vernacular dailies of Kolkata have projected it as a grand success for the West Bengal chief minister, yet the meeting has produced virtually no result except some major opposition parties sharing the same table and voicing some pious words of opposition unity.

That Pawar would not agree to any such proposal had become clear in the afternoon of June 14 and some major newspapers had broken the news in their online editions in the evening of Tuesday last. So proposing Pawar’s name as the joint opposition candidate in the aforementioned meeting was just a mere formality which everybody knew would not be agreed to by the senior Maratha politician. As alternatives two other names have come up- those of Farooq Abdullah and Gopal Krishna Gandhi, a former West Bengal governor. Of the two the latter is undoubtedly a perfect choice but whether he would agree to become an opposition candidate, is yet to be seen.

Beneath the words of bonhomie expressed in the meeting, signs of discontent are there. Congress has attended the meeting with lots of reservations about Mamata’s modus operandi. Sonia is now ill. She had prior



telephonic conversations with Pawar and Mamata and had said that on her behalf Mallikarjun Khadge will talk to different opposition parties and take steps for organizing the meeting. But before this arrangement could take any shape, Mamata stole the show by sending letters to opposition leaders inviting them to the meeting. Although CPM has attended the said meeting yet Sitaram Yechury, the party general secretary, has expressed his reservations about the way it has been convened.

But the biggest setback has been the absence of the Telangana Rashtra Samiti(TRS), the Aam Aadmi Party(AAP), the Biju Janata Dal(BJD), the Shiromoni Akali Dal and the YSR Congress Party. Of them the BJP is hopeful to get the votes of the BJD and the YSRCP. They can easily tilt the balance in favour of any NDA candidate in the event of an election. The TRS is following a policy of maintaining equi-distance from the Congress and the BJP. The AAP is not perhaps prepared to share a platform with the Congress.

If Mamata really wants to become the face of the opposition to the BJP at the national level then she must refurbish the image of her own government in West Bengal. The Calcutta High Court is coming down heavily on her government on proved corruption charges. Her education department has given appointments to school teachers some of whom did not qualify in examinations while some others did not even sit for the same.
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