Presidential pick likely to come from party as BJP looks within

As consultation starts within the BJP and with the Opposition for the presidential election, the ruling side wants a President who has “strong BJP affiliation”.

india Updated: Jun 27, 2017 12:38 IST
Kumar Uttam, Hindustan Times, New Delhi
Presidential poll,President,President of India
Union ministers Rajnath Singh and Venkaiah Naidu with CPI(M) general secretary Sitaram Yechury leave after a meeting on presidential poll as part of the ruling party's outreach to stitch a consensus in New Delhi.(PTI Photo)

India’s next President is likely to be a dyed-in-the-wool BJP leader, contrary to speculation that the ruling party might field a technocrat or some apolitical candidate.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi is yet to discuss his preference with party leaders , but ruling party said the leadership is not inclined to repeat the 2002 experiment when it had to fielded an ‘outsider’, APJ Abdul Kalam, for the top post.

As consultation starts within the BJP and with the Opposition for the July 17 election, the ruling side wants a President who has “strong BJP affiliation”.

On Friday, Union ministers Rajnath Singh and Venkaiah Naidu drove to the residence of BJP patriarch LK Advani and also called on Murli Manohar Joshi.

Although the two members of the BJP’s Margdarshak Mandal were seen as possible contenders, sources said that Friday’s meetings with the two were to seek their views on the party’s presidential candidate. Advani and Joshi had fallen out of favour with the party leadership earlier. They are unlikely to be considered for the post, said party sources. Finance minister Arun Jaitley is returning from abroad on Saturday and is expected to touch base with socialist parties over the next few days.

Kalam was a surprise candidate in 2002 for a greater consensus, but the changed scenario in 2017 gives the BJP more manoeuvring space to pick candidate from among its leaders.

India elects its President through a complex voting pattern involving all parliamentarians and members of legislative assemblies – each of them having a different vote value.

An MP has the highest vote value. Today, BJP has a clear majority in the Lok Sabha and government in more than a dozen states. NDA’s total strength in Parliament is over 400 out of total 776. “Such mandate is not to choose an ‘outsider’ for the top post,” a government leader told HT. The Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, too, is averse to a Kalam-type experiment.

This position rules out chances for the likes of agricultural scientist MS Swaminathan, whose name has been proposed by the National Democratic Alliance partner Shiv Sena, or the Metro-man, E Sreedharan.

The BJP is likely to announce the name of its candidate on June 22 and the nomination is expected the next day.

Sure of its victory, the BJP will also choose its candidate with an aim to break the new found unity in the Opposition. A divide in the camp can take the fizz out of campaign to bring anti-BJP forces under one umbrella. “It will be a success for us, even if we manage to wean away one or two major parties from the Opposition camp,” a Union minister told HT.

First Published: Jun 17, 2017 07:14 IST