Vice President Bhairon Singh Shekhawat, who will file his nomination for the Presidential poll on Monday, is not quitting his post.
His aides say that there is no constitutional bar on the Vice-President contesting the poll while continuing in office. Shekhawat’s term as Vice President runs till August 19.
Among the six vice-presidents who contested and became Presidents, only VV Giri resigned to contest as Indira Gandhi’s candidate in the fifth Presidential poll against official Congress nominee N Sanjeeva Reddy. The reason: he assumed the post of acting President following the death of Dr Zakir Hussain, who died on May 3, 1969.
Giri resigned both as the Vice-President and as the acting President to enter the fray. In what was then a mega battle between Gandhi and the Congress Syndicate, Giri went to win the poll to become the President. At that time, Gandhi gave out a call to the MPs and MLAs to "vote according to their conscience."
The UPA and the Left have dismissed as "misapplied and inapposite" the NDA's plans to seek a conscience vote in favour of Shekhawat as had happened in 1969.
"That year was a case when the ruling party was itself divided and conscience vote was sought because of the division," said Abhishek Singhvi, Congress spokesperson. "The UPA is completely united and all constituents have signed the nomination papers for Pratibha Patil. The arithmetic will not change because of vague symbolism or rhetoric."
After his decision to give out a call to the MPs and MLAs to "vote according to their conscience”, Shekhawat’s aides say he has history on his side. No Vice President has ever lost a Presidential poll. Shekhawat will begin his campaign only after the scrutiny of nomination papers and the last date of withdrawal (July 4).
While the ruling alliance is projecting the theme of women’s empowerment to ensure that Patil becomes the first woman President, Shekhawat will pose the question whether a "weak and loyalist" occupant of Rashtrapati Bhavan will be able to withstand pressures from a ruling party that is intolerant of its opponents.
Meanwhile, LK Advani on Sunday hosted a dinner for NDA and BJP leaders including chief ministers in connection with Shekhawat’s nomination.