A blow to the Indian opposition as Gandhi’s grandson leaves the presidential race

Gopalkrishna Gandhi speaks to the media.  Photo by Hindu
Gopalkrishna Gandhi speaks to the media. Photo by Hindu

NEW DELHI: The grandson of Indian independence leader Mahatma Gandhi has dropped out of the race for president after his name was proposed by an alliance of opposition parties.

Gopalkrishna Gandhi, 77, a diplomat who became a politician, said he had rejected a request by an alliance of 17 parties to be their candidate for a mostly ceremonial role.

“I am most grateful to them. But after deep consideration of the issue, I see that the opposition candidate should be the one to create a national consensus and a national atmosphere in addition to opposition unity,” Gandhi said in a statement Monday.

National and state lawmakers are due to vote on the new president on July 18th.

The Indian head of state has certain constitutional powers, but mostly acts on the advice of the government, making him a more titular position.

But a deal on the candidate and his election would be a symbolic victory for India’s fragmented opposition after eight years of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) rule.

The BJP is likely to announce its own candidate this week and could re-nominate incumbent Ram Nath Kovind, a member of India’s marginalized Dalit community, for another term.

Gandhi, who was governor of West Bengal between 2004 and 2009 after being appointed by the then ruling Congress party, ran for vice president in 2017, but lost to the BJP candidate.

The grandson of the icon of the Indian freedom movement is considered a vocal critic of Modi’s Hindu nationalist policies and has accused the government of breaking disagreements in the world’s largest democracy.

Gandhi is the third person to turn down an opposition offer to be their candidate.

The Gandhi dynasty of assassinated former prime ministers Indira and Rajiv Gandhi, and current opposition figure Rahul Gandhi, is descended from India’s first prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru, not Mahatma Gandhi.

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