Who will be India's next president? This question is bogging the ruling BJP government and the opposition equally as the dates of the elections come closer. Last week, BJP president Amit Shah, breaking his silence over the topic, said that the party would consult opposition parties, which have been working to forge unity over a joint presidential candidate, before deciding on the ruling alliance's pick for the top constitutional post.
Shah, however, parried a query on whether the BJP would seek to build a consensus with the opposition. "Consensus is a word that it is used in several ways. But we will hold discussions with everybody, including opposition parties," he told PTI during an interaction.
Parties like the Congress, Mamata Banerjee-led Trinamool Congress and the Left have spoken about fielding a "secular" opposition candidate if the BJP-led NDA picks a nominee with Hindutva leanings. However, the ruling block is unlikely to be perturbed with the stand of the opposition parties as numbers in the presidential electoral college favour it.
Shah declined to speak about likely names from the NDA for the president's post, claiming they have not decided on anyone yet. "We have not decided on any name yet. We will first talk to our NDA allies. Then we will talk to opposition parties," he said.
Initial discussions held within party ranks in the BJP had catapulted veteran party leaders Murli Manohar Joshi, LK Advani and External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj as top favourites. However, after the special CBI court charged Advani, Joshi and ten others in the Babri Masjid demolition case, chances of Advani and Joshi seem bleak. Sources had told PTI, however, that the names of two other women politicians are also doing the rounds — Lok Sabha Speaker Sumitra Mahajan and Jharkhand Governor Draupadi Murmu.
Meanwhile, on 29 May, Shah met with RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat at the Sangh headquarters in Nagpur amid intense speculation that the NDA government might field either a Dalit or a tribal for the post of the president. Sources told Hindustan Times that both Bhagwat and RSS general secretary Bhaiyyaji Joshi wanted a person with a Sangh Parivar background be nominated for the post of president. There were speculations earlier that Bhagwat would be nominated as NDA candidate for the next president but the RSS chief, himself, shot down that proposal.
The electoral college for the presidential polls has a total of 11,04,546 votes with the BJP-led NDA's tally currently standing at about 5.38 lakh votes. The NDA crossed the majority mark in the electoral college after the YSRCP, the Andhra Pradesh party headed by Jagan Mohan Reddy, announced his outfit's support for the ruling combine and the TRS, which is in power in Telangana, indicated that it will follow suit.
The BJP is also hopeful of getting the support of both the factions of the AIADMK, which is in power in Tamil Nadu. The presidential election is due in July and the poll to the post of the vice president is scheduled for August.
The electoral college for picking the vice-president is clearly in the BJP-led NDA's favour with the alliance having the support of 418 members out of 787, the combined strength of the Lok Sabha and the Rajya Sabha.
With inputs from agencies
Updated Date: Jun 02, 2017 12:53 PM