Presidential, vice-presidential polls expose a fractured Opposition; BJP is likely to dominate both Houses

Putting all speculations to rest, the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) has finally announced Union Minister of Housing and Urban Poverty Alleviation as well Information and Broadcasting, M Venkaiah Naidu, as its nominee for the post of vice-president of India.

If Naidu gets the support that NDA presidential nominee Ram Nath Kovind has received, Prime Minister Narendra Modi shall have both the top posts of the nation of his choice. That too in an almost unchallenged manner and without facing a tough fight.

File image of Rahul Gandhi and M Venkaiah Naidu. AFP

File image of Rahul Gandhi and M Venkaiah Naidu. AFP

And these two highly-anticipated elections — for the new president and the vice-president — have nailed the biggest truth of contemporary India. The Opposition in India is a toothless and fangless section that makes a lot of noise, but it's not equipped to give a unified fight to the NDA government especially the one that has an absolute majority and can go dangerously unchecked.

The fissures were there even when the parties set out to choose their nominee for the post of the president. The Opposition could not pool its resources to throw up one consensus candidate who would have fought the elections on his own strength. The Opposition's eventual candidate Meira Kumar though strong in her own merits, seemed more like an afterthought than a first, unequivocal choice.

It's funny that even on the morning of the election for the post of the president, top leaders from the Opposition camp such as Samajwadi Party (SP) supremo Mulayam Singh Yadav were announcing their intentions to support Kovind.

So, where is India's Opposition? Has it finally drowned under the BJP wave?

The Congress party along with 18 non-BJP parties had challenged the NDA for a tough fight in the presidential poll. But, a series of developments have presented the Opposition block as weak.

Even Congress president Sonia Gandhi’s appeal to give a unified fight against "narrow-minded, divisive and communal vision" doesn't seem to be working.

Besides Mulayam, his brother and Samajwadi Party leader Shivpal Yadav has also appealed to back Kovind.

Meanwhile, Bahujan Samaj Party chief Mayawati tweeted: "No matter who wins, the president will be from Dalit community. Huge victory for our movement and party.”

An independent MLA from Maharashtra Ravi Rana has claimed that around 25 opposition MLAs were in touch with him and would vote for Kovind.

In addition, BJD (Odisha), TRS (Telangana) and YSR Congress (Andhra Pradesh) are in a group of six political parties that hold 13 percent vote share in the presidential electoral college and have expressed to support NDA.

Had the Congress-led Opposition managed to secure support of this group of six, it would have been in a comfortable position.

An article in The Economic Times states that “the Opposition’s 35.47 percent votes combined with the 13.06 percent vote share of these six parties give them a total of 48.53 percent — just short of the NDA’s vote share of 48.64 percent in the presidential contest".

Giving the number game, the NDA, besides successfully garnering support from BJD, TRS and YSR Congress, has also got support from one of the two AIADMK factions, and from one or two smaller groups. This should help NDA to cross the majority mark.

According to a Firstpost article — the NDA, led by the BJP, has 5,37,683 votes including the Shiv Sena; and the shortage is around 12,000 votes. But the promised support from the BJD, the TRS and the YSR Congress and likely backing from the AIADMK factions could offset the shortfall of the presidential votes by a substantial margin.

"There'll be a lot of cross-voting in both the presidential and vice-presidential polls. Resultantly, the NDA candidates will be in an advantageous position," said political analyst Professor MD Nalapat.

With the vice-presidential election likely to go the same way, is it going to be total domination for the BJP-led NDA in electoral politics? Moreover, what does this say about the 2019 General Elections? At least one thing is clear — the signs for the fractured Opposition are not right.

Updated Date: Jul 18, 2017 06:25 AM

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