The search for an Opposition candidate against UPA nominee Hamid Ansari ended on Monday after leaders of the NDA settled for former finance and external affairs minister Jaswant Singh, betting on his stature to prevent the Congress-led UPA from having an easy walkover in the vice-presidential polls.
Singh,74, too expressed readiness to contest after JD(U) chief Sharad Yadav declined the request of senior BJP leaders and Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar and the Shiv Sena agreed to back the BJP nominee. Both these parties had earlier parted company with the BJP over supporting UPA nominee Pranab Mukherjee for the presidential polls.
NDA leaders did not mince words in saying Singh's candidature was considered the best in the circumstances, given his stature and serious personality.
In any case, they pointed out that Ansari enjoys a definite edge with at least 438 votes in an electoral college consisting of 790 MPs, much above the required number of 396.
Therefore Singh's candidature, as NDA chief LK Advani put it, was to not let the UPA have a "walkover." Singh has only the support of 186 votes, and is counting on 125 MPs, including 10 nominated members who are yet to announce their preference.
Advani also said the NDA was opposed to Ansari as it was critical of his role as Rajya Sabha chairman when he adjourned the House during the Lokpal debate.
Earlier, the BJP's plans to back Trinamool Congress chief Mamata Banerjee's candidate came unstuck after she failed to persuade ex-West Bengal governor Gopal Krishna Gandhi. Banerjee also changed her mind about putting up Krishna Bose, an ex-MP, as a candidate. Instead, she wanted the NDA to persuade Yadav, who declined.
Meanwhile, Congress spokesperson Manish Tewari said, "We hope BJP finally supports Singh. A few years ago, they had thrown him out of the party unceremoniously."