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Communist Party of India (CPI) General Secretary S. Sudhakar Reddy on Sunday said the Left parties will not contest the election if the BJP's presidential nominee is a "consensus candidate and has secular credentials".
Reddy also said that they told the BJP team -- comprising Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh and Urban Development Minister M. Venkaiah Naidu which met them last week -- not to field a candidate who has links with the RSS and doesn't have secular credentials.
Reddy said CPI also enquired if RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat was the BJP's candidate. "We just enquired whether Bhagwat is going to be their candidate. They said Bhagwat will not contest," Reddy told IANS.
"We will support a consensus candidate on behalf of the opposition. We are ready to support a candidate with secular credentials," he said.
Asked whether the Left parties would contest the presidential election even if there is a "consensus candidate", Reddy said: "No, we won't contest in case of a consensus candidate. We don't have enough numbers and we don't have the intention of contesting."
"Generally, on behalf of the party, we never contested. Earlier, too, we only contested with other Left and opposition parties," he added.
Asked what did the BJP team convey to his party, Reddy said: "BJP didn't come with any names. They asked our opinion. We told them not to put anybody from the hardcore ranks like the RSS. We told them we'll support a secular candidate."
Asked if any assurance was given on that, he said: "No assurance was given. Why will they give assurance? We told our opinion but they did not respond."
In 2002, when A.P.J. Abdul Kalam had emerged as the consensus candidate for President, the Left parties had put up former Azad Hind Fauj member Laxmi Sehgal as their candidate resulting in a contest.
Meanwhile, Samajwadi Party leader Ramgopal Yadav told IANS: "Rajnath Singh and Jaitley-ji (Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley) met us yesterday (Saturday). They have not disclosed any name for the presidental nominee."
Asked if SP leader Mulayam Singh Yadav gave an assurance to the BJP about supporting NDA's candidate, he said: "We will support a consensus candidate, otherwise we'll oppose the NDA."
The BJP on Sunday stepped up its efforts to gather support for its yet unnamed presidential nominee, with its top leaders talking to allies Shiv Sena and LJP as well as the Trinamool Congress and BJD, even as it disclosed that the NDA candidate will file the nomination before June 24 after the opposition is conveyed its choice.