With no word yet on its choice of the next President, the ruling BJP, which with its allies is close to the half-way mark in terms of the electoral college strength, constituted a three-member ministerial committee Monday to consult political parties, including the Opposition. The BJP said the committee, comprising Home Minister Rajnath Singh, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley and Information and Broadcasting Minister M Venkaiah Naidu, will “try to evolve a consensus”. But sources said the consultation process is a formality and a confidence-building measure since the party is not proposing any name during the consultation process.
“Courtesy demands that the ruling party makes efforts to take everyone into confidence,” a senior party leader said. The party, the leader said, also wants to “ascertain the number of parties which are willing to authorise Prime Minister Narendra Modi to pick the Presidential candidate”.
As of now, the NDA, with more than 30 constituents, has almost 50 per cent of the votes in the electoral college consisting of parliamentarians and legislators — 776 MPs and 4,120 MLAs from across the country. The BJP’s massive win in Uttar Pradesh — whose MLAs have the highest value among the legislators – has given the party a clear edge in the Presidential elections. The value of each vote is calculated according to a formula that factors the population of the constituency of the elected representative.
The BJP has so far given no indication of its candidate. Sources said Modi and party chief Amit Shah will have final rounds of discussion before proposing a name to its own allies. Shah has cancelled his tour to Arunachal Pradesh, scheduled for Monday, and is going to be in New Delhi for two days.
Apart from BJP’s allies in the NDA, the YSR Congress has already announced its support to the NDA candidate. The BJP also expects the TRS, INLD and AIADMK to back its nominee for the top post. The BJP’s allies in the states, PDP in J&K and AGP in Assam – both are not members of the NDA — are also likely to remain with the party in the Presidential election. The BJP leadership are not so sure of the stand that would be taken by Shiv Sena.
Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar, who did not attend Congress president Sonia Gandhi’s luncheon meeting with Opposition parties, has said that the Opposition will field a candidate only if attempts to put up a consensus candidate fail.
On probable candidates, BJP leaders indicated that the choice for the Presidential candidate could be a non-political person while the vice-presidential nominee could be a political person from the backward communities or a Dalit. But a strong section within the party and the RSS believe that the BJP should field a nominee with a strong ideological background since they have had to “wait for decades to get an opportunity to win its own candidate in the Presidential election”.
President Pranab Mukherjee’s term comes to an end on July 24. The filing of nominations for the election begins on June 14 and continues till June 28. The poll, if required, is scheduled for July 17.