The BJP’s strategy in approaching an election is indeed different and carefully calibrated which has paid it rich dividends. A case in point is the crucial assembly elections held recently in Uttar Pradesh. The Lotus party and Prime Minister Narendra Modi in particular along with his confidant and party president Amit Shah sent the opposition packing not knowing what hit them.
With the runaway victory in UP, PM Modi appears all set to wrap up a win for the BJP nominee contesting the highest constitutional office of President after the incumbent and 13th Head of State Pranab Mukherjee completes his term on July 25.
The surprise this time around with several names doing the rounds could well be that of 52-year-old tribal woman from backward region of Odisha Droupadi Murmu, who is the Governor of Jharkhand at present.
This is also to rub home a point that despite being in power for more than six decades, the Congress has done precious little for the teeming oppressed and depressed classes who have been just left to their fate. The saffron brigade believes that the Congress has, however, not been found wanting in according the necessary lip service.
This forms part of Modi’s efforts to dislodge the Congress as the messiah of the poor. With a clean image as a politician, it is believed the best thing that could have happened to Ms.Murmu was to elevate her to a gubernatorial assignment.
This could shake up and send shock waves in the political firmament. Such a choice will make people sit up and take note. There is also no doubt that it is bound to be supported by the Tribal MPs in Parliament and the legislatures irrespective of their party affiliations leaving the opposition clueless and leaden footed.
It may be recalled that the BJP’s gambit of concentrating on the non-Dalit backward classes in the just concluded assembly elections in UP ensured a huge dividend to the BJP far beyond its own expectations. They crossed the 315 mark in the 403-member Vidhan Sabha.
Even as efforts are underway to forge a United Front, the Congress and other non-BJP parties have approached former Governor, administrator and diplomat Gopalkrishna Gandhi to be the joint opposition candidate for the office of President. He made it clear the conversations have been of a very preliminary nature.
The non-BJP opposition is facing the usual hiccups in getting its act together. Congress president Sonia Gandhi has taken the lead contacting various leaders including RJD’s Lalu Prasad Yadav and Mulayam Singh Yadav of the SP.
However, in Lucknow Mulayam Singh Yadav’s younger brother Shivpal Yadav caught everyone by surprise announcing plans of splitting the SP by floating another outfit. Of course ‘Nejtaji’ as his elder brother Mulayam Singh Yadav is popularly known is to be installed its chief. On his part Netaji claimed he had not been consulted or informed of such a move. He is more keen to see his son and former UP chief minister Akhilesh Yadav step down as the SP chief.
Amid calls for Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar’s “ghar vapsi” to the BJP, NC’s Omar Abdullah and former J&K chief minister met Sonia Gandhi last week and discussed the proposed UF.
TMC supremo and West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee is keen to be part of the UF complaining nobody had approached her so far. Sonia Gandhi is expected be meet Ms Banerjee early next week as well as BSP’s Mayawati soon. Odisha’s ruling BJD, the Telengana Rashtra Samiti and some others are also being consulted.
Lalu is staring at problems with the Supreme Court ordering him to face trial in all the four fodder scam cases which can cast its shadow in knitting the UF. Such Fronts have been mooted in the past but has hardly been successful with Bihar being the lone exception.
This is a huge wake up call for the leaders of the proposed UF whose performance in the assembly elections over the last two-and-a-half years since Narendra Modi became Prime Minister in May 2014 has been dismal barring the AAP’s mind boggling win in Delhi and the saffron brigade falling by the wayside in Bihar, thanks to the “mahagatbandhan” 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 rival BSP’s inclusion in the 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.
At the same time the body language of these leaders is the least convincing in the prevailing circumstances of a Modi phenomenon.
The BJP led NDA is short of a majority in the electoral college for electing the President. They will require the backing of some regional parties like the ruling AIADMK in Tamil Nadu for an assured win in the electoral college.
Mr. Mukherjee has been described as a “copy book” President who has remained steadfast in preserving and protecting the Constitution.
The country’s first President Rajendra Prasad is the only person who has served two terms in Rashtrapati Bhawan. 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 for the office of President.
In today’s polarised society with extreme positions acquiring prominence and politics mirroring the same, the new President has to play the role of the next conscience keeper. With growing incidents of intolerance from different parts of the country, the new Head of State will have to prove the government’s commitment to pluralism, inclusiveness and independence of institutions.
(T R Ramachandran is senior journalist and commentator. The views are personal.)