New Delhi: Even as Congress chief Sonia Gandhi made an effort to bring in opposition unity to decide upon the presidential candidate, JD(U)'s Nitish Kumar gave the luncheon a miss.
Sources told CNN-News18 that the Bihar CM is expected to meet Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Saturday, hinting at a possible change of stand on presidential election.
Clearing the air on the matter, the Bihar CM said he had already intimated the Congress chief that Sharad Yadav was going to represent the JD(U). He added: "I have sent a request to meet PM Modi tomorrow (Saturday) after lunch. I am the representative of my state and I have never skipped a meeting with the Prime Minister."
The lunch meet coincides with the BJP-led NDA government’s third anniversary in power. According to reports, the leaders will be discussing a united candidate for the upcoming presidential polls.
Bitter contenders in Uttar Pradesh — the Samajwadi Party and the Bahujan Samaj Party — and hostile rivals in West Bengal — the Trinamool Congress and the CPI(M) — were present at the lunch at the Parliament House library.
The lunch was also attended by NCP leader Sharad Pawar, RJD supremo Lalu Prasad and DMK's Kanimozhi, reported PTI.
Left leaders Sitaram Yechury, S Sudhakar Reddy, D Raja and P Karunakaran were also present, as were Sharad Yadav and KC Tyagi of the JD(U).
Besides representatives of smaller regional parties, Omar Abdullah of the National Conference also attended the event.
Apart from Gandhi and party vice-president Rahul Gandhi, the Congress was represented by former prime minister Manmohan Singh and leaders Ahmed Patel and Ghulam Nabi Azad.
The Congress has been advocating unity among non-NDA parties ahead of the presidential election which, it believes, can be taken forward to the upcoming assembly polls in states such as Gujarat, Himachal Pradesh and Karnataka, besides the Lok Sabha elections in 2019.
Kumar missed Friday's lunch because of a prior engagement. Leaders of 17 parties attended the lunch. Among the many present were SP's Naresh Aggarwal and Ram Gopal Yadav, AIUDF's Badruddin Ajmal, JMM's Sanjiv Kumar, JD(S)'s CS Puttaraju and RSP's NK Premachandran.
(With inputs from PTI)