Presidential Elections in July – Challenges Being Faced by The BJP
NEW DELHI: Bitten by an element of urgency, the Congress and other non-BJP parties are desperately trying to forge a United Front in the upcoming elections to the highest constitutional office of President in the second half of July.
There is no doubt that the BJP will like one of its senior leaders occupying Rashtrapati Bhawan for the first time. Narendra Modi’s sterling performance at the hustings since he became the Prime Minister in May 2014 has raised the ruling party’s hopes particularly after the recent runaway success in the assembly elections in the most crucial state of Uttar Pradesh.
For the opposition, Congress President Sonia Gandhi spoke to Samajwadi patriarch Mulayam Singh Yadav and RJD chief Lalu Prasad Yadav in a bid to have an opposition front. National Conference leader Omar Abdullah met Sonia earlier this week. On his part Congress Vice President Rahul Gandhi had spoken to former UP chief minister Akhilesh Yadav.
TMC supremo and West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee is keen to be part of this front but made it clear nobody had approached her so far. Sonia Gandhi is also expected to meet with BSP’s Mayawati.
BJP strongman Modi would like to install one of its leaders as the First Citizen in the erstwhile Viceregal Lodge. And in achieving that objective the ruling Lotus party will need the backing of the AIADMK and some other opposition parties as it lacks the requisite majority at present in the electoral college.
Odisha’s ruling BJD, the Telengana Rashtra Samiti and some others are also likely to be consulted soon in evolving the opposition front. The aim is to create a national alternative to the BJP in the run up to the next general elections barely two years away in 2019.
Such fronts have been mooted in the past before assembly polls particularly in states viewed as an important battleground state in the country but have hardly been successful.
This is a huge wake up call for the leaders of the proposed front whose performance in the assembly elections over the last two-and-a-half years has been dismal barring the AAP’s mind boggling win in Delhi and the saffron brigade falling by the wayside, thanks to the “mahagathbandhan” in Bihar in 2015.
Leaders have welcomed Sonia Gandhi’s return to active politics after having taken a back seat for some time. Interestingly, CPM leader Sitaram Yechury has already clarified that the Left’s antipathy towards Trinamul Congress would not be a hurdle in the quest for a larger unity. Akhilesh Yadav has also made it clear that the SP has no objection to state rival BSP’s inclusion in the front.
The non-BJP Leaders realise they will have to be flexible. Some of them recalled when the National Front was formed, the government was headed first by H D Deve Gowda and later by I K Gujral to keep the BJP at bay.
With President Pranab Mukherjee’s term ending on July 25 this year, the fight to occupy Rashtrapati Bhawan is definitely hotting up.
With talk of his new residence in the national capital getting ready, the Congress and others of its ilk might like Pranabda to be given a second term which appears highly unlikely.
So far the country’s first Head of State Rajendra Prasad is the only person who has served two terms in the imposing Rashtrapati Bhawan. As of now the BJP-led NDA does not have a majority in the electoral college. It will need the backing of opposition parties to facilitate its nominee past the winning post in the ensuing Presidential election.
Even if the Congress backs Mukherjee for a second term as President, the regional satraps would prefer a non-Congress nominee. Mukherjee has been described as a “copybook President” who assured he is duty bound to preserve and protect the Constitution.
The previous NDA government headed by BJP stalwart Atal Behari Vajpayee did spring a surprise when it zeroed in on missile man A P J Abdul Kalam. That Modi, who is the BJP’s face at this juncture, enjoys a definite advantage at this juncture is not in doubt.
(T R Ramachandran is senior journalist and commentator. The views are personal.)