The next President of India will be elected on July 17. Counting for the Presidential polls will take place on July 20. There is a rat race in selecting the candidate; numerous names have roundup in the past few days. They include, Draupadi Murmu, Najma Heptulla, Gopal Krishna Gandhi, L K Advani, Murli Manohar Joshi, Mohan Bhagwat, Sushma Swaraj among others. The election will be a prestige issue for both the BJP and the opposition parties, and the Congress among the latter in particular.
While the right-wing will look to take yet another stamp of itself in the corridors of power by getting its candidate elected President, the Opposition will look to this poll as an opportunity to put up a united front and give the BJP some sleepless nights. BJP has made several choices and few of them are strongly backed by its ally in Maharashtra. Shiv Sena strongly proposed Mohan Bhagwat’s name. The Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh (RSS) is the BJP’s ideological mentor. The saffron party can pay it back by getting RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat elected as the next President. Bhagwat as President would be ideal for the BJP also because he would not have too many qualms in signing the dotted lines of the laws the saffron party passes. Some are pitching for Sushma Swaraj, the current external affairs minister, is quite popular among people — especially due to how she helps people who reach out to her for aid on Twitter. She could be a popular candidate for President, one whom many in the Opposition might not say no to. However, with Manohar Parrikar having left the Defence Ministry to become Goa chief minister, Prime Minister Narendra Modi might not want to lose another seasoned Cabinet colleague.
Modi appointed Draupadi Murmu, a tribal leader from Odisha, as Jharkhand Governor, never had a tribal woman held a governor’s post in the country.
Modi and BJP president Amit Shah’s strategy to get Dalit-tribal duo in president and vice-president offices is meant to achieve multiple objectives. Draupadi Murmu is the ideal candidate with this purpose of BJP. If the saffron party can get her elected, it will manage to diminish to quite an extent the “anti-poor” tag that is fast becoming associated with it. Murmu will also be a candidate the Opposition cannot speak out against, for fear of being termed casteist.
Barring a last-minute hitch, the two strong candidates to win nomination of NDA-led alliance are Kariya Munda, a former deputy speaker and tribal from Jharkhand who is known for his austere lifestyle and is dyed in RSS ideology, and Thawar Singh Gehlot, social justice minister in Modi’s cabinet and a Dalit leader from Madhya Pradesh. Gehlot’s name for vice-president’s post is virtually sealed but Modi has to take a final call on the presidential candidate. However, Kariya Munda as a prospective candidate to be the next president has gained strength due to his decades-old ties with RSS. Munda’s simple lifestyle was much talked about when he became a deputy speaker. Today, he continues to live in a mud house in village Khunti, Jharkhand. Though 80-plus, Munda comes from RSS, unlike Murmu, who directly joined the BJP.
Thawar Chand Gehlot, Rajasthan politician is currently the Union Minister for Social Justice and Empowerment, and another backward-class candidate the BJP has been looking to field and for much the same reasons as Murmu. However, Gehlot may also have the advantage of being a little more known than Murmu, and therefore be more successful. BJP wants to create history by getting a tribal leader and a Dalit leader into the two posts for the first time and market its outreach to Dalits and tribals as genuine. Thus, they want to portray opposition parties as anti-Dalit/Tribal. So Gehlot have slim chances, but he has been strongly recommended by many.
Things are looking really down for the Congress. As of now, the party is in power in only two major states in the country: Punjab and Karnataka. Even the Gandhi name is failing in elections: There have been voices within the Congress itself to replace Rahul Gandhi. Under these circumstances, the party might look to this former West Bengal governor who also bears the famous surname to rekindle its magic.
Fali Nariman, an eminent jurist is not too well-versed in the art of politics. However, with his legal expertise, he could pose a serious problem for the laws the BJP might choose to pass. And that is a reason the Congress might want to field him in the presidential election.
Many political pundits and politicians feel that Pranab Mukherjee should be given one more term. If all else fails for the Congress, might back current President Pranab Mukherjee for re-election. However, that is a big gamble because no President since Rajendra Prasad — the first to hold the post — has been elected or completed two terms in that position. It would also show a lack of leadership within the Congress and the Opposition. While Opposition parties realise that they don’t have electoral numbers to get a president of their choice, it is now becoming clear that Prime Minister Narendra Modi has decided to create history by getting a Dalit-tribal duo to fill the posts of President and Vice-President of India in July.
Let’s see who makes it to the first citizen of India.