New Delhi: The government on Friday reached out to the opposition on the presidential election with Union ministers Rajnath Singh and M Venkaiah Naidu meeting Congress president Sonia Gandhi, but the discussions were inconclusive with no names being put forward from either side.
"We expected that BJP leaders will come up with some name, one or more, for the post of president of India, so that the Congress party could take a call on that. But nothing of that happened. BJP leaders did not propose any name and instead asked us the names," Congress leader Ghulam Nabi Azad said after the meeting.
Part of the ruling BJPs outreach to stitch a consensus on the official nominee for Indias next president, this was the first meeting between the government and the opposition on the issue.
The BJP has formed a three-member committee of senior leaders -- Rajnath Singh, Arun Jaitley and Naidu -- and will meet other opposition leaders too. Jaitley is in Korea and was not part of the meeting at Gandhis 10 Janpath residence that last for about 30 minutes.
Azad said the Congress expected the BJP team, which had sought time from Gandhi, to give names so discussions could be held within the party and with other opposition leaders.
"No name came up from the government side, and they said they have not yet decided on the name. Whenever they decide on the name, they will seek our cooperation and come back. Till the time any name comes, there is no question of discussion or support," he said.
Congress leader Mallikarjun Kharge, who was also present during the meeting, said BJP leaders came only to meet and seek cooperation on the presidential election.
"They have not given any names; since they have not given names, there is no question of consensus. If they give the names, only then can we discuss them. There is no question of consensus," he said.
The Congress leader said the BJP was seeking cooperation but his party did not know what is on their mind.
Asked if there was any possibility of a consensus on the issue, Kharge said, "We all political parties have taken a stand that we will take a call unitedly. When the name has not come, there is no question of any discussion."
Besides the Congress, the BJP committee of ministers has also reached out to the Congress, BSP, NCP and CPI-M. They are expected to meet other opposition leaders, including CPI-Ms Sitaram Yechury.
With nobody disclosing their cards on the crucial issue, it depends on which side will blink first.
A contest for the top post, however, looks likely as the opposition is keen to give a contest even if it is tilted in in favour of the ruling NDA.
The panels discussions with the Congress chief come barely two days after a sub group of opposition leaders constituted by Gandhi met in Azads Parliament chamber to discuss the opposition strategy. The meeting, including the Congress, the NCP and DMK, besides arch-rivals TMC and Left and SP and BSP, apart from the JD(U) and RJD, had decided to wait for the government proposal on the matter before taking a further view.
The opposition sub-group has not come up with any names so far but stand united on the issue.
However, the buzz around who would be Indias next president continues. The names doing the rounds include Gopalkrishna Gandhi, former West Bengal governor and grandson of Mahatma Gandhi, as well as Janata Dal-United leader Sharad Yadav and former speaker Meira Kumar.