Presidential election: How UPA came up with Pratibha Patil’s name in 2007
If the nomination of Bihar gover Ram Nath Kovind as the NDA’s presidential candidate was a surprise, so was the nomination of Pratibha Patil in 2007.Updated: Jun 27, 2017, 12:37 IST
Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s nomination of Bihar governor Ram Nath Kovind as presidential candidate is almost akin to the UPA’s choice of Pratibha Patil as the head of state in 2007 when it comes to springing, well, a surprise.
The situations were, of course, different and the UPA’s trouble was convincing its partners, especially the Left about a consensus candidate before Congress President Sonia Gandhi announced Patil’s name on June 14, 2007. Patil was then the governor of Rajasthan.
Sonia Gandhi’s brief statement was read out in the presence of then Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, DMK chief M Karunanidhi, Nationalist Congress Party president Sharad Pawar, Rashtriya Janata Dal president Lalu Prasad, and Left leaders Prakash Karat, Sitaram Yechury, A.B. Bardhan, D Raja and Abani Roy.
Unlike this time, the surprise announcement of Patil came after a slew of tense meetings where the Congress and its allies could not come up with a consensus candidate. On June 14, Karat, Bardhan and D Raja met Karunanidhi and said the Left parties were unwilling to accept the candidature of Shivraj Patil or Karan Singh.
These names came up after the Left’s choice Pranab Mukherjee’s name was turned down by the Congress on the account that he was indispensible in running the government and couldn’t be spared for the post of President. Soon after this, Sonia Gandhi and Manmohan Singh called the Left leaders for a meeting.
At this meeting, the Left leaders again said what they conveyed to Karunanidhi and also suggested Congress should consider names of Arjun Singh and Motilal Vora. But both of them were ruled out by their party on the ground of ill-health. As the meeting progressed CPI D Raja suggested since they cannot agree on a man’s name they should consider a woman’s name.
“Sonia Gandhi heard this and asked me what I was saying. I said it would be ideal to come up with a woman candidate,” recalls D Raja. Manmohan Singh too agreed with the idea and soon suggested Patil’s name.
But most leaders in the room did not connect with the name. It was the CPI general secretary A B Bardhan, who hails from Nagpur, who immediately said it was an apt choice.
Bardhan also spoke to Patil. “Bardhan the proceeded to give a detailed presentation of Patil’s political career and also recalled her husband (Devisingh Ramsingh Shekhawat) had served as Mayor of Amravati,” he said.
Patil was an MLA in Maharashtra Assembly between 1962 and 1985. She was also the Leader of the Opposition in the Assembly between 1979 and 1980 before becoming a member of the Rajya Sabha in 1985. In 1991 she became a Lok Sabha member.