The UPA formally declared M Hamid Ansari its candidate for the vice-presidential poll at a meeting at Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s residence here on Saturday.
The 75-year-old scholar diplomat is all set to become the second Indian — after Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan — for a second term in the vice-president’s office.
Besides the UPA, Mulayam Singh Yadav’s SP and Mayawati’s BSP promptly came out in support of Ansari. The UPA is also hopeful of getting support from the Left (43 votes) and JD-U (28) to face any contingency, although Sharad Yadav, JD-U chief and NDA convener, said a final call would be taken at the NDA meeting on Monday.
The TMC, the UPA’s second biggest constituent, is still undecided on Ansari. Party chief Mamata Banerjee reportedly told Singh she would convey her decision in two days.
At the meeting, TMC leader and railway minister Mukul Roy suggested former West Bengal governor Gopal Krishna Gandhi and former party MP Krishna Bose as his party’s choices.
But home minister P Chidambaram said after the meeting that when UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi announced Ansari’s name, Roy “applauded” the announcement.
Gopal Krishna Gandhi later told HT: “Some have asked me if I will contest the election. To them my response is: Thank you, but no, I will not.”
He, however, offered “sincere thanks” to Banerjee for suggesting his name.
The PM also spoke to BJP leader LK Advani, party chief Nitin Gadkari and leaders of the Opposition Sushma Swaraj and Arun Jaitley, seeking support for Ansari.
But the BJP objected to Ansari’s nomination, citing his alleged role in abruptly ending the debate on the lokpal bill in the Rajya Sabha on December 29.
The BJP core group went into a huddle to consider its strategy. Several names were discussed in Saturday’s meeting which decided to wait for the TMC's final decision and discuss with NDA partners.
Accepting his candidature "in all humility", Ansari said, "I thank the Prime Minister, the UPA chairperson, ingredient members of the UPA and those parties that have supported my candidature and for the confidence reposed in me for shouldering once again the responsibility of this high office."
Ansari’s name earlier did the rounds as a possible presidential candidate of the UPA. Banerjee had, in fact, announced his name as Congress’ second choice after her talks with Sonia Gandhi.
In 2007, Ansari’s name was believed to be suggested by the Left for the post. He had defeated BJP’s Najma Heptullah by securing 455 votes in the 788-member electoral college.