New Delhi, July 16: Making a final pitch for Opposition unity ahead of the presidential elections slated for Monday, Congress president Sonia Gandhi said it is imperative upon all like-minded parties to join hands in combating the “communal and divisive” forces. At the Opposition leaders’ meet here today, Sonia Gandhi appealed the lawmakers from the non-NDA camp to vote for Meria Kumar tomorrow.

“We cannot and must not let India become hostage to those who wish to impose upon it a narrow minded, divisive and communal vision,” the senior Congress leader said. “In such testing times, we have to unit and safeguard the values of secularism, inclusiveness and harmony,” she added. ALSO READ: PM Modi Calls Presidential Election 2017 ‘Historic’, Appeals Lawmakers to ‘Not to Waste a Single Vote’

“The President and Vice-President are the constitutional heads of state. They are entrusted to discharge duties of offices in a manner that preserves, protects and defends both Constitution and the law. Both of these are, sadly, under siege today. Together, Meira ji, Gopal Krishna ji will give us best possible President and Vice President to steer society through the crisis that has beset our country,” Sonia Gandhi was reported as saying by news agency ANI.

While conceding the fact that the Narendra Modi-led faction holds the edge in the electoral college, Sonia said the Opposition should not accept defeat before the polls. “In these contests, numbers may be against us. But battle must be fought, and fought hard,” she added.

The Opposition meeting chaired by Sonia Gandhi was attended by representatives of 17 political parties. Among the major leaders present at the meet include CPI(M)’s Sitaram Yechury, CPI’s D Raja, NCP’s Tariq Anwar, Samajwadi Party’s Naresh Aggarwal, TMC’s Derek O’Brien, BSP’s Satish Mishra, along with the representatives of RJD, DMK, JD(S), JMM, Revolutionary Socialist Party, Kerala Congress, IUML and the AIUDF.

The Janata Dal (United) of Nitish Kumar, which is the ruling alliance partner of Congress in Bihar, did not attend the meeting. The party had earlier announced its decision to back NDA nominee Ramnath Kovind in the presidential poll.

The presidential election is scheduled to be held tomorrow. The poll battle turned into a ‘Dalit vs Dalit’ contest, with both NDA and the Congress-led Opposition front fielding candidates from the marginalised community. NDA’s pick Ramnath Kovind is considered to be the favourite to win the elections, with NDTV claiming that 63 per cent of the lawmakers, affiliated to BJP, allies and non-NDA members including JD(U), TRS, BJD and AIADMK.

Kovind, who was serving as the incumbent Bihar Governor, was pitched by government as a consensus candidate. However, the Congress struck back at Centre, accusing them of not holding consultations with Opposition before proposing his name. The Opposition bloc decided to nominate Meira Kumar, former Lok Sabha speaker, as the rival candidate.

For the vice-presidential polls, slated on August 5, Opposition has announced Gopal Krishna Gandhi, the grandson of Mahatma Gandhi, as their joint candidate. The BJP-led NDA is yet to declare its nominee.