How NDA, UPA select before they elect President

In 2002 as in 2017, NDA reached out to Opposition before announcing name; UPA consulted NDA in 2007 after finalising name, kept even Left out in 2012

Written by Liz Mathew | New Delhi | Published: June 16, 2017 5:23 am
presidential polls, 2017 presidential polls, pranab mukherjee, nda, upa, 2012: Pranab Mukherjee nominated after initial disagreement among UPA partners; neither BJP nor Left consulted before announcement; NDA backed P A Sangma

The ruling BJP’s move in reaching out to the Opposition before announcing its presidential candidate stands out in contrast to the way the Congress had gone about nominating its candidate during the two UPA regimes. In 2007, the Congress had approached the Opposition for its support only after announcing Pratibha Patil as its candidate. And in 2012, it announced Pranab Mukherjee without even consulting the Left parties.

Like the current government, the previous NDA government too had tried to build a consensus on its presidential candidate in 2002, A P J Abdul Kalam, before announcing his name. Then prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee had invited Congress president Sonia Gandhi and other Congress leaders to his residence and told them the ruling party wanted to field Kalam. The Congress supported Kalam, leaving only the CPM, the CPI and the JD(S) to vote for Lakshmi Sahgal.

2007: Late call to BJP

presidential polls, 2017 presidential polls, pranab mukherjee, nda, upa, 2007: Pratibha Patil nominated for President after intense consultations between UPA and Left, Sonia telephoned Vajpayee only after finalising the name; NDA fielded Bhairon Singh Shekhawat

To finalise the candidacy of Patil, who would go on to become the first woman President, the Congress and its UPA partners had repeated discussions with the Left parties, which were supporting the government from outside. The Left, in fact, played a key role in finalising the candidate. The Congress’s first choice was then home minister Shivraj Patil but the Left vetoed it; eventually, the UPA and the Left agreed on Patil.

DMK patriarch M Karunanidhi then helped bring all parties together, including the BSP, to come up with a common candidate. It was only after announcing Patil’s name that Sonia Gandhi telephoned BJP leader Atal Bihari Vajpayee seeking the BJP’s support for her. The NDA, however, fielded Bhairon Singh Shekhawat against Patil.

In both 2007 and 2012, there were cracks in the then Opposition ranks. The Shiv Sena, the BJP’s ally in Maharashtra, backed both Patil and Mukherjee while the JD(U), an NDA partner in Bihar, backed the UPA’s Mukherjee in 2012 rather than the NDA’s P A Sangma.

2012: Left out

Sushma Swaraj, then leader of the Opposition in Lok Sabha, announced the decision to back former Speaker Sangma, since deceased. “In a democracy, an election is mandatory. There is nothing in Constitution that it should be through consensus. We will not give a walkover to the Congress,” Swaraj had told reporters, justifying her party’s decision not to go for a consensus candidate. This was despite reports quoting BJP sources that a section of the party leaders wanted to vote for Mukherjee.

One reason for the NDA’s decision to back Sangma instead of Mukherjee, with whom many of its leaders had warm ties, was the UPA leadership’s failure to consult its leaders before announcing the name. Arun Jaitley, then leader of the Opposition in Rajya Sabha, had said as much. “The Opposition was only informed after the announcement of its candidate and requested to fall in line. Many have fallen in line and yet many have refused to oblige… We decided not to fall in line,” Jaitley had said.

Within the UPA, the run-up to the selection of the candidate was marked with disagreement. Mamata Banerjee, whose Trinamool Congress was part of the UPA, held a meeting with Sonia Gandhi and then addressed a press conference along with Samajwadi Party leader Mulayam Singh, and announced that the UPA candidates were Mukherjee for president and Hamid Ansari for vice president.

presidential polls, 2017 presidential polls, pranab mukherjee, nda, upa, 2002: For A P J Abdul Kalam as President, PM Atal Bihari Vajpayee invited Sonia and other Congress home, sought their support; Congress agreed

Mamata then went on to say that some parties including the TMC and SP had wanted to propose former President Kalam and then prime minister Manmohan Singh. But within hours, the SP leader, who had several rounds of discussions with Congress leaders, announced that his party would stand by the UPA nominee. Although the NDA made an effort to wean the TMC away, the latter eventually voted for Mukherjee.

In fact, the CPI, which had backed the UPA-1 candidate, was not consulted before finalising the UPA-2 candidate. Late CPI leader A B Bardhan was quoted as saying that no one from the Congress spoke to him before finalising Mukherjee’s name.

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  1. K
    Jun 16, 2017 at 7:38 pm
    congress which was running a coalition govt did not bother to consult BJP which had more than 100 MPs at that time. Now it is stupid on the part of Sonia or Guam Nabi to talk of consultations when ruling party has obsolete majority. Only non-relevant leaders like yechury, who cannot even win LS election or get elected to RS on his party's strength talk consensus.He is not even considered by his own party as a candidate for RS seat from WB, shame on him to talk about fielding candidate for United opposition, a comedy politico in India.
    1. K
      Jun 16, 2017 at 2:20 pm
      Karat and Karunanidhi were hand in glove in the selection of prathiba for prez seat. no necessity to give another chance to present in bent also. Give the job to a strong personality from BJP itself and the vice prez post to one from NDA allies. There is no need for taking into consideration of upa (congress) as they never did so. left will support whoever congress support. that is their policy. Same time Metro Man Sreedharan Sir should be decorated with the Bharat Ratna for his yeoman service to the nation.
      1. M
        Jun 16, 2017 at 12:00 pm
        Presidential Candidate UPA knew that no party will support a candidate like Pratiba Patil instead of Abdul Kalam. What a choice by Sonia and Company ? Congress/Left parties do not have any morality in choosing President as they were rejected by people so badly in 2014 and subsequent polls, NDA should go ahead with its candidate. Remember NDA gave Abdul Kalamji and UPA replaced him with Pratiba Patil. That is the level of Sonia/Lalu/Karunanidhi gang of corrupt. naomi
        1. D
          Jun 16, 2017 at 11:28 am
          It would be good to have a consensus option on the nomination for the useless position of President. Mukherji and Abul Kamal were good Presidents but the Kamvali's decision to put her family cook as president was the worst decision and did nothing for India except wasting few thousand Crores to go down the drain. Sushma is good candidate. She is relatively young, kindenys are new, her heart and brain are fine. So Shen I still the right candidate. A low level but no longer healthy candidate would be Advani.
          1. L
            l s
            Jun 16, 2017 at 10:02 am
            All parties should come together and re-elect President Pranab Mukherjee again as he is the most suitable person for this high office. He did his duties fantastically. Please re-elect him for India to move forward. He maintained decorum of office properly and had a good rapport with all. Disgruntled congress should not play politics for this high post.
            1. S
              Surendra Nadhan
              Jun 16, 2017 at 11:23 am
              Shri Pranab Mukherjee, no doubt, is a good President. But we have no dearth for qualified leaders for the post. The ruling Party who has the decisive power to elect the President will definitely choose a person like Shri APJ Adul Kalam for the coveted post. Thinking for another person for the post by the ruling party is not all a bad idea, definitely they will bring a Chupa Rustam. Don't worry.
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