The name of Abdullah was a last-minute suggestion forwarded by NCP chief Sharad Pawar, just hours before leaders of 17 opposition parties confabulated on a consensus candidate for the Presidential polls.
Pawar, in separate meetings with Left leaders Sitaram Yechury and D Raja, and Trinamool Congress chief Mamata Banerjee proposed Abdullah’s name, impressing upon them the significance and boldness of the move, especially if all opposition leaders can be brought around to agreeing to Abdullah’s candidature.
According to sources, Pawar said Abdullah’s candidature will not only send out a positive message to the international community, but will also show to the people of J&K that the country stands in solidarity with those upset over the end of special status.
Gopalkrishna Gandhi, on the other hand, has been an opposition favourite for more than five years. Gandhi, a retired diplomat and former governor of West Bengal, is also the grandson of Mahatma Gandhi and was also the opposition’s Vice-Presidential candidate against M Venkaiah Naidu in 2017. His candidature was proposed in the context of deteriorating relations between the government and opposition parties, and the opposition accusing the BJP-RSS of perpetuating religious hate and undermining the Constitution.
Presidential polls in the 75th year of Indian Independence, many argued, should be a ‘Gandhi versus Godse’ battle, and Gopalkrishna Gandhi, with his legacy and antecedents, was seen as the perfect choice by the Left leaders who proposed his name.