External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj, considered a possible contender in the Presidential race, on Saturday sought to suggest that she was not in it as BJP President Amit Shah said “all names” would be considered, a day before he meets Shiv Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray, who has pitched for RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat or agro-scientist M.S. Swaminathan for the top post.
Swaraj, who spoke to reporters on the sidelines of a function of her ministry, described as “rumours” media reports suggesting that she is one of the candidates under consideration by the party.
“These are rumours. I am the External Affairs Minister and you are asking me something which is an internal matter,” she said.
Shah, who held a press conference in Mumbai on three years of the Narendra Modi government, said, “We are discussing and considering various names among ourselves and all the NDA constituents. The BJP believes in consensus and consultations with all parties.”
On the names suggested by ally Shiv Sena, he said all names would be considered and discussed before any final decision is taken.
“If you have any names in mind, please give it to me. We shall consider that too,” he said jokingly.
Asked about the complaint by Opposition parties, whose leaders were met with by Rajnath Singh and M. Venkaiah Naidu, that the government side did not give any name, Shah said, “If we propose any names, they will say it has already been decided, so what is the purpose of these meetings….”
Shah is slated to meet Thackeray on Sunday morning in Mumbai and discuss issues including the candidate for the President’s election.
The Shiv Sena, which shares power with the BJP both in the centre and the state, has been sulking over various issues and keeps sniping at the saffron partner.
The party has not voted with the BJP in the last two Presidential elections.
On Friday, Rajnath Singh and Naidu were reportedly asked by CPI leader D. Raja whether the BJP would be fielding Bhagwat or Swaminathan as suggested by the Shiv Sena. Naidu reportedly told him that the RSS does not contest elections.
Meanwhile, the Opposition parties may be meeting early next week to decide its strategy on whether to field a candidate against the nominee of the government depending on the choice.
Opposition sources said the non-BJP parties may discuss the issue even before the government comes out with a name in case there is undue delay.