Vice-President Bhairon Singh Shekhawat has for the first time hinted broadly that he is in the race for next year’s presidential election.
Speaking to the media on his way back home after a weeklong visit to Guyana and Trinidad and Tobago, Shekhawat said he had never been deterred by his age from undertaking any assignment. “My age does not pose a hurdle for any job. I have never felt it stand in the way,” he said.
Shekhawat was replying to a question on the presidential polls next year, soon after he talked about his visit to the top of Eiffel Tower, when he stopped over in Paris on Monday. "Even at the age of 83, I could go to the top,” he said. “That’s a unique experience."
Asked if he went to the gym to keep him fit, the vice-president said gyms were for those who were physically unfit. "See how hectic my schedule has been for the past four or five days," he said, driving home the point that he was physically fit for the top job. The names of Shekhawat and Lok Sabha Speaker Somnath Chatterjee have been doing the rounds as nominees for the next presidential election.
President A.P.J. Abdul Kalam is due to retire in July next year. Shekhawat, who has thrice been the CM of Rajasthan, earned all-round praise for his conduct of the proceedings in the Rajya Sabha, of which he is the chairman, in the past four years.
Shekhawat’s election as vice-president in August 2002 had revealed his considerable rapport with leaders of parties across the political spectrum. His 149-vote victory margin over Sushil Kumar Shinde took even BJP members by surprise.Shekhawat had got 454 of the 766 votes cast by MPs. It is said that MPs from his own Thakur caste, cutting across party lines, supported him.