‘Vote according to your conscience’ will be Vice President Bhairon Singh Shekhawat’s appeal to the MPs and MLAs of all parties for the presidential contest.
This had been Indira Gandhi’s ploy to ensure victory of her nominee VV Giri against the official Congress candidate N Sanjeeva Reddy in the fifth presidential election in 1969.
Further, Shekhawat has chosen June 25 — the 32nd anniversary of the proclamation of Emergency by Indira Gandhi — to file his nomination papers for the Presidential elections. And his campaign managers are back in overdrive, now that President APJ Abdul Kalam has bowed out of the contest.
Shekhawat's campaign spokeswoman Sushma Swaraj said his campaign will definitely take an anti-Congress flavour.
“He is filing his papers on the anniversary of the Emergency to highlight that the anti-democratic tendencies witnessed then have resurfaced during the UPA rule and the dignity of the constitutional offices has been damaged.”
She said Shekhawat’s poll plank is: should the President be chosen on the basis of loyalty to a political family or to the nation, democratic principles and the Constitution.
“The MPs and MLAs will be asked to go by their conscience to exercise their choice. There is no whip and hence, no issue of cross voting.”
Neither Shekhawat nor his campaign managers will raise the charges that have come up against UPA nominee Pratibha Patil, Swaraj said. However, she said, political parties would be free to raise them.
Swaraj denied that Janata Dal(U)’s Sharad Yadav had stayed away from NDA meetings to express dissent. “Yadav had gone to Madhepura due to prior commitment. He wil sign the nomination,” she said.
Pratibha files nomination
UPA-Left candidate Pratibha Patil on Saturday filed her nomination papers for the presidential polls on July 19. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi, other prominent leaders of the ruling combine, including the Left, and her husband Devisingh Shekhawat were present on the occasion.
Two sets of nomination papers were filed on Saturday before PDT Achary, the Returning Officer and Lok Sabha Secretary General. Patil has said Parliamentary Affairs Minister PR Dasmunsi would be her official representative for the election. The Congress has named Jayanti Natarajan, Janardan Dwivedi, Devendra Dwivedy, Renuka Chaudhary and Mohan Prakash as her spokespersons.
No intention of hurting Kalam
The Government on Saturday clarified it had no intention of hurting Kalam while describing as “unfortunate’’ the reported remarks that he was prepared to contest if there was certainty over his victory. “My comment was not on the office of the President or the President but on the potential candidate,’’ said Parliamentary Affairs Minister PR Dasmunsi.
He accused the Third Front and the NDA of dragging the presidential office into controversy. The minister said: “Dr Kalam is a dignified President. The question should be asked to those who tried to persuade him to contest the polls when there is no convention of a sitting President being renominated since Rajendra Prasad’s time,’’ Dasmunsi added.