Will Modi do a Vajpayee or send across a political message in Prez polls?

New Delhi, May 7 (IANS)
With the Presidential elections round the corner, the BJP is seemingly in search of a candidate who can be sent to the Raisina Hill, but the road leading to it may be steeper as all regional parties are gearing up for a showdown with the ruling party.
The regional parties are rattled with the alleged hounding by the enforcement agencies reporting to the Union government. However, till now, no serious move has been initiated by either side.
Internal churning is on in the opposition as well as the ruling alliance, which is confident of winning the elections due to its numerical strength in the Parliament. But a united opposition can definitely upset the equations of the BJP.
Now, the big question is will Prime Minister Narendra Modi go the Atal Bihari Vajpayee way and propose a consensus candidate like A.P.J. Abdul Kalam, whose candidature had created a division in the opposition camp in 2002?
Things may be little different this time as the BJP is stronger now than in the Vajpayee era, with more than 300 MPs in the Lok Sabha and around 100 MPs in the Upper House.
While the sources in the ruling party are tight-lipped on the Presidential nominee, several rounds of meeting with RSS leaders have been held to arrive at a conclusion.
In the past, Vajpayee had fielded A.P.J. Abdul Kalam to get the support of some non-NDA parties, while UPA candidates Pratibha Patil and Pranab Mukherjee had garnered support from many parties which were part of the NDA then. At the time of Kalam, outfits like the Samajwadi Party, which was in the opposition, had supported him.
In 2002, Vajpayee had successfully united the Congress and other regional parties, except the Left outfits, to get Kalam elected as the President.
At that time, the NDA’s first proposed candidate was P.C. Alexander, a former bureaucrat, but the Congress was not keen as it was in favour of giving a second term to K.R. Narayanan, and was also trying for the elevation of Vice President Krishan Kant, who had the backing of the Telugu Desam Party chief Chandrababu Naidu, who was an NDA partner at the time. Samajwadi Party chief Mulayam Singh Yadav was also backing Kant.
But on the announcement of the name of Kalam, Mulayam Singh sided with the NDA and the Congress too assented despite the party having differences. Kalam secured around 90 per cent of the votes.
Trinamool Congress’ Mamata Banerjee, Shiv Sena’s Bal Thackeray and BJD’s Naveen Patnaik had also supported Kalam, and because of his Tamil Nadu connection, the DMK and the AIADMK also came on board.
BJP sources say that if the party wants to send across a political message, it could very well put up a tribal nominee this time around, given the fact that it had proposed a Scheduled Caste candidate last time in incumbent President Ram Nath Kovind.
In such a case, the two names doing the rounds are Anusuiya Uikey, presently the Governor of Chhattisgarh, and Draupadi Murmu, the former Governor of Jharkhand.
While Uikey belongs to Madhya Pradesh, Murmu hails from Mayurbhanj, a tribal district in Odisha.
The electoral college comprises 776 MPs of both the Houses and 4,120 MLAs from all the states and Union Territories. The electoral college had 1,098,903 votes, with 5,49,452 votes being the majority. However, with the Assembly of Jammu and Kashmir with a vote value of 6,264 suspended since 2019, the majority mark now is down to 546,320 votes.
As far as the value of votes is considered, Uttar Pradesh has the maximum with approximately 83,824 votes, followed by Maharashtra and West Bengal.
As for the BJP, it has 465,797 votes, and add to that its alliance partners’ 71,329, the total comes to 537,126.
The BJP enjoys a brute majority in the Assemblies of Uttar Pradesh, Goa, Manipur and Uttarakhand, but if the opposition joins hands and puts up a joint candidate, the saffron camp might find it tough to win the elections. The only way would be a division in the opposition camp.
If the opposition puts up a candidate like NCP supremo Sharad Pawar, who is capable of garnering support from the Trinamool Congress, BJD, TRS, YSRCP, CPI-M, CPI and other parties, the BJP will have a tough task in hand, as though the saffron party has its government in big states like Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat and Karnataka, the opposition is not far behind in these states.
Incumbent President Ram Nath Kovind is about to complete his tenure and there is no clarity of him getting another term in office, as the BJP will field a candidate eyeing the 2024 general elections and the ensuing state polls.

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