United NDA fields Jaswant but Ansari sits pretty

The NDA decided to close ranks and field senior BJP leader Jaswant Singh in the election for Vice-President,against UPA candidate Hamid Ansari

Written by Express News Service | New Delhi | Published: July 17, 2012 3:34:11 am

The NDA today decided to close ranks and field senior BJP leader Jaswant Singh in the election for Vice-President,against UPA candidate Hamid Ansari.

The NDA said it couldn’t support Ansari given his “conduct” during the Lokpal debate in the Rajya Sabha last December and his use of marshals to facilitate the passage of Women’s Reservation Bill,in his capacity as Rajya Sabha Chairman.

L K Advani said while the BJP had tried to get NDA convenor and JD(U) president Sharad Yadav to contest,he did not want to give up his active political career.

“Sharad Yadav’s name had come up in the public domain as a possible candidate for Vice-President. Sushma Swaraj had talked to him day before yesterday and requested him to consider. But he said his nature does not permit as today he is engaged in active politics freely and this post will hamper it,” Advani,the NDA working chairman,said before announcing Jaswant’s name as the “unanimous” choice.

“All the constituents present in the NDA meeting today unanimously decided to oppose the Congress for the Vice-President’s election,” he said after the NDA meeting at his residence.

Yadav incidentally was learnt to have suggested the name of BJP leader Najma Heptullah,who contested unsuccessfully last time. However,BJP leaders pointed out that she had herself declined to contest this time.

Unlike the Presidential election,where NDA constituents Shiv Sena and JD(U) are backing the UPA’s Pranab Mukherjee,the alliance put up a united front on Jaswant’s name while soliciting support from other parties. Advani indicated that the NDA may reach out to UPA ally Trinamool Congress,which is still to make up its mind on Ansari.

Jaswant Singh,who has been with the BJP since its inception except for a brief period when he was expelled over references to M A Jinnah in his book,described his candidature as an “honour” and said he was confident of taking on the “challenge”.

Given the way the numbers are stacked,it is a formidable challenge. MPs vote in the Vice-Presidential election,and of the 790,the winner needs to get 396 on his side. Singh currently claims formal committed support of only 214 — from the BJP (163),JD(U) (29),Shiv Sena (15) and Akali Dal (7). Excluding Trinamool’s 28 votes,Ansari can hope to get 331 — from MPs of UPA parties alone,including the Congress (278),DMK (25),NCP (16),RLD (5),National Conference (5) and Muslim League (2).

The UPA can also count on support of over 120 MPs of Samajwadi Party (31),BSP (36),CPM (27),CPI (6),RJD (6),JD(S) (3),Forward Bloc (3),Jharkhand Vikas Morcha (1),AIMIM (1),All India United Democratic Front (1),Bodo People’s Front (2),Kerala Congress (2), Viduthalai Chiruthaigal Katchi (1) and Sikkim Democratic Front (2). In addition,Ansari is likely to get the support of the 10 nominated members.

While the CPI has not yet announced its support,sources said the party was considering backing Ansari. That means Ansari may garner over 460 votes out of 790.

In contrast,the NDA will seek support of two-other non-NDA parties — BJD (21) and AIADMK (14) — that can add at best 35 more votes,taking the total to 249.

The BJP leader,however,put up a brave front. “I don’t reject the importance of numbers… (But) wait and watch… It is not simply a game of arithmetic,” Singh said. “Ummeed hai isisliye to ummeedwar hoon (I’m hopeful,that’s why I am an aspirant).”

Meanwhile,the Congress took a dig at the NDA nominee,recalling his expulsion from the BJP three years ago. “We wonder whether his party is with him or not. Three years ago,Jaswant Singh was thrown out from the same BJP in a very humiliating manner,” said Congress spokesman Manish Tewari.

No differences with BJP over Vice-Presidential candidate: Nitish
Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar said on Monday the JD(U) had “no differences” with its alliance partner BJP,and that senior BJP leader Jaswant Singh was “NDA’s Vice-Presidential candidate and the JD(U) was very much part of the NDA”.

Interacting with the media during his weekly Janta Darbar,he said: “The JD(U) and the BJP had not arrived on a consensus on the Presidential nominee but we had no differences on the V-P choice.” About the chances of Jaswant’s victory,he said: “In a battle,one does not think of win or loss. I am not interested in calculations.” He also played down questions of Hamid Ansari being his “individual choice”.


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