Senior Congress leader and former Union minister Margaret Alva was on Sunday pulled out of virtual retirement and nominated as the Opposition’s candidate for the vice-presidential election scheduled to be held next month.
Sources said the Opposition had initially considered former chief election commissioner S Y Quraishi — CPM general secretary Sitaram Yechury reached out to Quraishi — and turned to Alva after he declined their offer. West Bengal Chief Minister and Trinamool Congress chief Mamata Banerjee, sources said, had earlier suggested PDP chief Mehbooba Mufti’s name but the proposal did not make much headway.
At the meeting of Opposition leaders, held at NCP chief Sharad Pawar’s residence on Sunday, Yechury suggested and Pawar seconded Alva’s name. That capped a week’s groundwork by Yechury, Pawar and Congress president Sonia Gandhi, sources said.
It is a privilege and an honour to be nominated as the candidate of the joint opposition for the post of Vice President of India. I accept this nomination with great humility and thank the leaders of the opposition for the faith they’ve put in me.
Jai Hind 🇮🇳
— Margaret Alva (@alva_margaret) July 17, 2022
In fact, Yechury suggesting Alva’s name at the meeting too was planned to ensure that her candidature is not seen as having come from the Congress — part of a strategy to ensure that Alva has the backing of those uncomfortable with the Congress.
Sources said Yechury had spoken to Alva several days ago while Sonia spoke to her on Saturday. With Alva’s name, the Opposition hoped to send out a political message — something they missed while picking the presidential nominee — by fielding a woman from South India who is also from a minority community.
Among the Opposition parties, the Trinamool Congress and the Aam Aadmi Party, which had extended support to Sinha, did not attend Sunday’s meeting.
Pawar informed the leaders that he has spoken to Delhi Chief Minister and AAP chief Arvind Kejriwal and he has assured his party’s support to the Opposition. Sources said a senior Trinamool Congress leader was spoken to during the meeting and he assured the leaders that his party was with the Opposition. “Your candidate is our candidate,” a leader quoted him as having said.
Sources in the Trinamool Congress said the party’s leaders could not attend the meeting because they were preoccupied with preparations for the July 21 Martyr’s Day rally. They said Banerjee would consult all her MPs before taking a decision.
In the case of Yashwant Sinha, the Opposition’s candidate for the presidential polls, Banerjee, whose Trinamool Congress had suggested Sinha’s candidature and got the other Opposition parties to accept her choice, later said there could have been a consensus on Droupadi Murmu, the NDA’s candidate, had the BJP reached out to the Opposition.
After the meeting on Sunday, Pawar announced that 17 Opposition parties had unanimously decided on Alva’s name.
“We have decided to announce a joint candidate for the Vice-President election,” Pawar said while introducing Alva as a “person who has a vast experience in administration and in parliamentary affairs”.
The meeting of the Opposition leaders, which began at 3 pm and went on till 4.30 pm, was attended by the Congress’s Mallikarjun Kharge and Jairam Ramesh, DMK’s T R Baalu and Tiruchi Siva, Shiv Sena’s Sanjay Raut, CPI’s D Raja and Binoy Viswam, MDMK’s Vaiko, TRS’s K Keshava Rao, Samajwadi Party’s Ram Gopal Yadav, CPI(M)’s Yechury, IUML’s E T Mohammed Basheer, and RJD’s Amarendra Dhari Singh.
Alva, a five-term MP, has been a minister in several Congress governments at the Centre —under Indira Gandhi, Rajiv Gandhi, and P V Narasimha Rao. In 2009, she was appointed Governor of Uttarakhand, which was followed by gubernatorial assignments in Rajasthan, Gujarat and Goa.
Born on April 14, 1942, at Mangalore in Karnataka, Alva studied in Bengaluru’s Mt. Carmel College and later Government Law College. She has been an advocate, social worker and a trade unionist.
Thanking Opposition parties for deciding on her name, Alva tweeted, “It is a privilege and an honour to be nominated as the candidate of the joint opposition for the post of Vice President of India. I accept this nomination with great humility and thank the leaders of the opposition for the faith they’ve put in me.”
On Saturday, the BJP had announced West Bengal Governor Jagdeep Dhankhar as the NDA’s vice-presidential candidate.
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The election for the office of the 16th Vice-President of India will be held on August 6 and counting will take place on the same day. The last date to file a nomination is July 19.
The term of the current Vice-President, M Venkaiah Naidu, is ending on August 10.