NEW DELHI -- A united Opposition candidate for the presidential elections will be the beginning of unity among the non-BJP parties to take on the BJP, senior JD(U) leader Sharad Yadav, seen as one of the probable Opposition choices, said on Sunday.
Having met Congress chief Sonia Gandhi last week as part of efforts to put up a joint Opposition candidate for the high-stakes polls, the former JD(U) president said the success of this exercise could go a long way in arresting the BJP's surge across the country.
He said unity in the Opposition ranks is the need of the hour as a division in the non-BJP votes has been a key reason behind the saffron party's win in the recent assembly polls in Uttar Pradesh and the Delhi civic elections.
Asked about the likelihood of major Opposition parties agreeing to back a common candidate against the BJP-led NDA's choice, he told that he was "hopeful" that it will happen.
"We are making efforts to get as many Opposition parties as possible on a common platform for the presidential election. A joint candidate will be the beginning of the coming together of Opposition parties against the BJP," he said.
The Rajya Sabha member and former Union minister noted that even in Uttar Pradesh where the BJP won an unprecedented 312 seats out of the total 403, the combined votes of the Samajwadi Party, the BSP and the Congress were much more than it.
Asked who could be the Opposition candidate for the presidential polls, he said names would be discussed at a later stage as the first priority is to bring these parties together.
With his vast parliamentary experience, Yadav is seen by some as one of the probable choices for a common Opposition candidate for the presidential polls. He declined to comment on this.
JD(U) chief and Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar had also met Gandhi and the Left parties have also spoken in favour of having an Opposition candidate.
The choice of NDA candidate could play a crucial role in these efforts as somebody with a pronounced Hindutva leaning can give the Opposition parties, many of whom are locked in bitter political battle in different states, a solid reason to close ranks.
The electoral college clearly favours the NDA choice for the top constitutional post, more so after the BJP's emphatic win in Uttar Pradesh. Though it is still short of a clear majority but its leaders are confident of getting the required support.
Many Opposition leaders believe that putting up joint candidate irrespective of the outcome of the elections will mark the coming together of a larger alliance against the BJP in the run-up to the 2019 Lok Sabha polls.
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