Winning President And Vice President’s Elections Will Be Unprecedented For BJP
The opposition providing some food for thought for the Narendra Modi government having announced its Vice Presidential nominee well in advance. Opposition believes nominating Gopal Gandhi as its Vice Presidential nominee puts the Modi Government in a spot.
If Prime Minister Narendra Modi sent shock waves by choosing barrister and low key Dalit politician Ram Nath Kovind from Uttar Pradesh for the highest Constitutional office of President, the 18-party opposition has given some food for thought to the BJP led NDA by picking former West Bengal Governor Gopal Krishna Gandhi as its Vice Presidential nominee well in advance.
On its part the NDA is not unduly concerned about the critical arithmetic required as it has the numbers in the electoral college to get its nominee elected as the Vice President despite being in a minority in the Rajya Sabha.
The Lotus party is expected to enjoy the rare distinction of occupying the highest Constitutional office of President as well as that of the Vice President for the first time since the BJP was formed in 1980. This is on account of the numbers stacked in its favour.
Going by precedent the ruling party at the Centre has its nominee as President and the opposition invariably occupies the office of Vice President, who is the Chairman of the Rajya Sabha.
These niceties are the least of Modi’s concerns keen as he is to snuff out the opposition in the country in pursuit of the rather difficult proposition of striving for a “Congress mukt Bharat” in the near future.
Earlier, Gopal Gandhi was also considered by the Opposition for the office of President. However, that was not to be. The choice of Kovind for the office of the Head of State compelled the opposition to field former Lok Sabha Speaker Meira Kumar, a Dalit and daughter of the late Babu Jagjivan Ram who had served as the Deputy Prime Minister.
Gopal Gandhi has been described as a worthy successor to outgoing Vice President Hamid Ansari even though the Congress and other 17 parties do not have the required number of MPs in the electoral college to ensure his win.
As Governor of West Bengal from 2004 to 2009, Gopal Gandhi had won many admirers with his bold criticism of the Left government’s handling of the Nandigram protests. He has spoken out whenever an occasion demanded — be it the partisan role of the CBI, which he has described as “a government hatchet”, or mob violence in the name of cow protection.
The BJP is bound to be guarded about its Vice Presidential nominee. As the Vice President heads the Rajya Sabha, where the Lotus party still cannot push through crucial legislation in the absence of sufficient numbers, the party may take care not to field a lightweight who could upset political calculations.
The BJP might be hard put to match the opposition choice. The Left backed Gopal Gandhi wholeheartedly for the post of Vice President. CPM General Secretary Sitaram Yechury “hoped he (Gopal Gandhi) will be elected unanimously”.
The combined strength of elected members of the Lok Sabha and the Rajya Sabha make up the electoral college for the office of Vice President and the Modi government enjoys a clear majority in the August five elections.
On the other hand the opposition is essentially banking on Gopal Gandhi’s stature hoping that the fence sitters like BJD’s Naveen Patnaik who has backed the NDA candidate for President would find it difficult to openly oppose him.
Accepting the nomination, Gopal Gandhi said “I accept the nomination and applaud the unity and conviction with which the opposition parties have asked me to be their candidate for the vice-presidentship.”
He viewed himself as a citizen weighed down by anxieties and even fears about “out collective future in these violent and retributive times but who nevertheless refuses to give up hope, faith, trust in our Republican Constitution, independent judiciary, free press, the institutions of parliamentary democracy and above all the robust good sense of the people of India”. Interestingly, as the Tamil Nadu’s ruling party the AIADMK will find it difficult to oppose Gopal Gandhi as he is half Tamil and made Chennai his home after demitting public office. The opposition feels it has outsmarted the BJP by announcing Gopal Gandhi’s candidature well in advance besides denying the JD (U) the elbow room to rethink.
( T R Ramachandran is senior journalist and commentator. The views are personal.)