Rajnath, Venkaiah to meet Sonia today; next President could have BJP affiliation

It is for the first time in the Bharatiya Janata Party’s history that it has got an opportunity to get its own man or woman elected to the top post.

india Updated: Jun 16, 2017 10:44 IST
Kumar Uttam
Kumar Uttam
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
Rajnath Singh,Venkaiah Naidu,Sonia Gandhi
New Delhi: Former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, Congress president Sonia Gandhi during the Congress Working Committee (CWC) Meeting at 10 Janpath.(PTI)

Two senior ministers of the Narendra Modi government will meet Congress chief Sonia Gandhi on Friday to gauge if there could be a candidate for the July presidential election on whom the two sides could reach a consensus.

Home minister Rajnath Singh and urban development minister M Venkaiah Naidu are unlikely to reveal to Gandhi the ruling side’s choice for the top post but will ask her if she has anyone in her mind whom the treasury bench could also consider.

Chances of the government picking any leader not having “BJP affiliation” is very bleak and talks of an apolitical leader replacing Pranab Mukherjee may not eventually see the light of the day.

It is for the first time in the Bharatiya Janata Party’s history that it has got an opportunity to get its own man or woman elected to the top post. Last time the BJP was in power, it picked APJ Abdul Kalam to build a consensus.

Now that the party has an absolute majority in the Lok Sabha and power in about a dozen states, it appears in no mood to let the occasion go without installing a BJP man in the top seat.

External affairs minister Sushma Swaraj, Uttar Pradesh governor Ram Naik, Lok Sabha Speaker Sumitra Mahajan, and party veteran Murli Manohar Joshi are being seen as contenders. All of them come from the BJP background and have close links with the RSS too.

Meanwhile, Venkaiah spoke to NCP’s Sharad Pawar on Thursday. The veteran from Maharashtra responded saying he will be New Delhi in a couple of days for further talks.

Andhra Pradesh chief minister N Chandrababu Naidu, whose Telugu Desam Party is an ally of the National Democratic Alliance (NDA), has assured he will go with Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s choice for the top post.

Finance minister Arun Jaitley, too, is returning from abroad on Saturday and is expected to touch base with socialist parties over the next few days.

The government’s outreach prompted the opposition parties to not decide its candidate in its meeting on Wednesday.

The notification for the July 17 polls was issued on Wednesday, beginning the nomination process for the election. The last date for filing papers is June 28. The election involves a complex voting pattern involving all parliamentarians and state legislators.

The NDA needs around 20,000 more votes to ensure the victory of its candidate and the reach out to the opposition is seen as an exercise to test if there could be a consensus and ensure a greater margin of victory.

First Published: Jun 16, 2017 09:49 IST