This was also how key coordinator and CPM general secretary Sitaram Yechury summed up the efforts of fielding a common candidate from the entire Opposition to this correspondent. Since the Opposition wanted to wait for the BJP candidate, we need to know how the Opposition camp is placed currently. Many issues need to be tackled first before arriving at a consensus.
Firstly, there is Trinamool leader Mamta Banerjee who is upset at being sidelined by the Congress and she is planning on another candidate with like-minded parties, such as Biju Janata Dal and other smaller parties. Mamta Banerjee has issues with the CPM. So this leads to suspect that there could be two candidates from the Opposition parties. A clarity will emerge by mid-June as the New Delhi political circles are abuzz with lots of intersecting talks.
Why mid-June is being projected as a timeframe?
The Election Commission has internally readied a calendar of events. A tentative suggestion from the Secretary General of Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha is that the main announcement of the Presidential elections will be held in mid June.
To be very specific, the Chief Election Commissioner Dr Nazim Zaidi is expected to hold a press conference on 16 June 2017, Friday. Polling day for the Presidential elections will be July 19, 2017. Zaidi will be retiring in July as CEC. He will not be in office to announce the winner of the Presidential polls.
Why is BJP not in a hurry to talk about Presidential polls?
BJP, which is in a comfortable majority, does not want to open its cards too early. The Central Parliamentary Board alone will take a call around 10 June 2017, said Amit Shah, in a private conversation with select mediapersons.
“By the first week of June, let us open up the name,” said Amit Shah.
So, he would want to keep the entire opposition guessing. Informally, BJP has initiated coordination with three regional parties - both factions of the AIADMK, the TRS and the Biju Janata Dal. Once this is resolved, the BJP might open up. Senior BJP leaders are proudly saying that for the first time an RSS member will be the President of India. “This may be ‘he’ or ‘she’”, said Amit Shah in a lighter vein.
Who all is BJP talking to?
#Telangana Rashtriya Samithi
Telangana Rashtriya Samithi Chief, K Chandrasekhar Rao has assured BJP of their votes which is crucial to BJP - 1.25% of the vote share. This regional party has 17 MPs and 62 MLAs.
#Two factions of the AIADMK
AIADMK which is going through a tough time, also hinted to a BJP intermediary that they were ready to cooperate with the party. A word from Sasikala and Dinakaran is awaited. But Tamil Nadu CM Edappadi Palanisami told the Tamil Nadu Cabinet recently that they were willing to work with the Centre since the state was reeling under drought and was caught up in lots of CBI, ED and Income Tax cases. BJP will need to approach them with caution. However, BJP intermediaries are confident that O Pannerselvam, who has 10 MPs and 8 MLAs, will vote for them.
#Biju Janata Dal
BJP is also in touch with Navin Patnaik and is hopeful that an alliance with Mamta Banerjee will not be viable for Biju Janata Dal.
Who are all in the race from the Opposition?
This will be interesting to analyse.
First of all, Dr Hamid Ansari, the Vice President of India categorically communicated to the political groups that he is not in the race. Having served for 10 years as Vice President he does not want to get defeated by the BJP nominee.
Congress has three names in mind, including Meira Kumar, but Sonia Gandhi is keen to have a non-political person. Even if the entire opposition agreed on Dr Amartya Sen, his age will be of concern. Moreover, he is bound to lose, as BJP has more votes. His name will not attract votes but distract said a senior Congress leader.
JDU wanted Sharad Yadav as the common candidate. But will all the 14 political parties agree to this? At the same time, Sharad Pawar, who could have been a probable candidate, withdrew from the race.
If one were to observe, it is for the first time that the Congress, after Independence in 1947, will not field its own candidate as the party does not have sufficient votes. This is a sad comment on the state of affairs, said a senior Congress leader who is close to Sonia.
Now let’s take a look at BJP’s candidates
It is understood that BJP’s decision will be taken by Amit Shah and Narendra Modi and of course, will have the RSS stamp of approval. There are three names being floated - Tanwar Chand Ghelot, Draupadi Murmu, Sumitra Mahajan. But insiders are certain that Prime Minister Narendra Modi shall spring a surprise by early June. Reason being, the Lok Sabha mandate of 2014 is not only for Modi but for a staunch Hindutva personality from RSS as the President of India. Modi at least agreed on this when this correspondent confronted him recently to comment on the 2014 poll results getting extended to 2017 President and Vice President elections.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi possibly thinks that this mandate of 282 is to be properly studied. BJP has internally begun to look for a bright candidate for the position of President of India and also the Vice President. Wait for another month, say, till mid June 2017 and you can expect some breaking news from BJP.
Last Updated 31, Mar 2018, 6:59 PM IST