India's next president and vice-president likely to be Dalit-tribal duo; BJP to reject Opposition's demands

While Opposition parties realise that they don’t have electoral numbers to get a president of their choice, it is now becoming clear that Prime Minister Narendra Modi has decided to create history by getting a Dalit-tribal duo to fill the posts of President and Vice-President of India in July.

According to senior political sources that Firstpost spoke to, Modi will not agree to a consensus candidate backed by NDA and Opposition as this is the first time when a BJP-led government has a majority in the electoral college to get right-wing candidates into the two top posts.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi with BJP president Amit Shah. PTI

Prime Minister Narendra Modi with BJP president Amit Shah. PTI

Until 2015, when Modi appointed Draupadi Murmu, a tribal leader from Odisha as Jharkhand Governor, never had a tribal woman held a governor’s post in the country.

Modi and BJP president Amit Shah’s strategy to get Dalit-tribal duo in president and vice-president offices is meant to achieve multiple objectives.

First off, the objective is to get president and vice-president who come from RSS. Secondly, BJP wants to create history by getting a tribal leader and a Dalit leader into the two posts for the first time and market its outreach to Dalits and tribals as genuine. Thus, they want to portray opposition parties as anti-Dalit/Tribal. Lastly, this is being done to target the 2019 Lok Sabha elections to widen BJP's support base.

After winning UP elections, the NDA government has expanded its electoral footprint and BJP rules in 12 of the 29 states on its own and in 2 states of Jammu and Kashmir and Andhra Pradesh as an alliance partner. In the last few months, Modi has managed to widen the electoral support base for his choice of candidate with smaller parties like YSR Congress in Andhra Pradesh, AIADMK factions in Tamil Nadu.

Barring a last-minute hitch, the two strong candidates to win nomination of NDA-led alliance are Kariya Munda, a former deputy speaker and tribal from Jharkhand who is known for his austere lifestyle and is dyed in RSS ideology, and Thawar Singh Gehlot, social justice minister in Modi’s cabinet and a Dalit leader from Madhya Pradesh.

A source said that Gehlot’s name for vice-president’s post is virtually sealed but Modi has to take a final call on the presidential candidate. For several weeks, the name of Jharkhand Governor and BJP ST leader Draupadi Murmu has been doing the rounds. But Kariya Munda as a prospective candidate to be the next president has gained strength due to his decades-old ties to RSS. Munda’s simple lifestyle was much talked about when he became a deputy speaker. Today, he continues to live in a mud house in village Khunti, Jharkhand. Though 80-plus, Munda comes from RSS, unlike Murmu, who directly joined the BJP.

On Friday, when BJP leaders meet Opposition leaders, starting with Congress president Sonia Gandhi, they are unlikely to feel modest about their electoral strength and numbers in the electoral college to get Pranab Mukherjee’s successor. A clear hint came from union minister Venkiah Naidu on Wednesday when he told media persons that NDA has the “mandate”. Opposition leaders can quibble, complain and protest Modi government's terse refusal to let go of a historic opportunity and humour them. But Modi-Shah duo are determined to make "history”.

Updated Date: Jun 15, 2017 11:17 AM

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