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1 Jun 2017

Opposition shortlists President nominees

Rasheed Kidwai, TT,May 31:The Opposition has shortlisted three names -Gopal Krishna Gandhi, Meira Kumar and Sharad Yadav - for President if a contest becomes necessary.
Sources said the former Bengal governor would be the Opposition's choice if the Narendra Modi government opts for a RSS wholetimer as its candidate. The Congress, Left and others would then field Mahatma Gandhi's grandson as the symbol of a fight between the ideology of Gandhi and that which eliminated the Father of the Nation.
Meira Kumar's name has gained currency, primarily in the Congress circles, as a likely candidate if the government picks Jharkhand governor Draupadi Murmu or Kariya Munda - both tribal leaders - or any other person symbolising identity politics. Meira, a former Speaker, is a Dalit.
Although Janata Dal (U) president Sharad Yadav is personally lukewarm to the idea of contesting a "losing battle" for Rashtrapati Bhavan, his candidature is aimed at checkmating Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar and retaining the JDU votes with the Opposition ranks.
However, the Opposition could stand divided if Modi springs a surprise by fielding BJP patriarch L.K. Advani. A section, including Congress president Sonia Gandhi, would then be reluctant to force a contest, sources said.
In her assessment, Advani has evolved to be statesman-like. However, the former deputy Prime Minister's involvement in the Babri demolition case may cause deep divisions among the 17 Opposition parties that recently buried their differences and met in New Delhi to plan the strategy for the presidential elections.
At the meet, many leaders informally weighed the option of fielding Sharad Yadav. A warhorse, he had as a young socialist leader in 1974 provided a spark to the movement led by Jayaprakash Narayan by winning the Jabalpur Lok Sabha bypoll against the Congress. That was not the only time when Yadav found himself in the spotlight. In 1981, Yadav stood to challenge Rajiv Gandhi from Amethi. Rajiv was contesting from the family pocket borough to succeed his brother Sanjay.
While the Opposition has said it expects Prime Minister Modi to take the lead in working out a consensus, in 2007 the UPA had not cared to invite L.K. Advani and others before finalising Pratibha Patil's name for President. Sonia, along with the Left, had also ignored outgoing President A.P.J. Kalam's last-minute desire to be renominated as a consensus candidate.
Other than Rajendra Prasad, no other President has earned a second term though successive occupants from the days of Shankar Dayal Sharma to Kalam have tried to lobby for it.
Modi is under no compulsion to consider Pranab Mukherjee, a UPA nominee and former Congressman, whom the BJP and allies had opposed even in 2014 in spite of Mukherjee's excellent rapport with Advani and a number of other BJP leaders.
The presidential poll offers a window of opportunity to an otherwise demoralised and dispirited Opposition. The combined Opposition has more votes than the NDA but regional players like ADMK, TRS, YSR Congress, BJD and other non-NDA parties have the potential of breaking ranks and helping out the Modi government.
An electoral college, consisting of elected members of both Houses of Parliament and elected members of the legislative Assemblies of states and Union Territories of Delhi and Puducherry, elects the President of India. The total strength of the electoral college is 1098,882 and the NDA on its own has a strength of 53,1442, falling short of just 18,000 votes from the majority mark of 54,9442.
The NDA has to manage the shortfall with the help of the AIADMK, the TRS and the BJD. The Opposition, if it wants to win, will have to ensure not only that it stays united but also that it wins over one or two NDA allies.
The presidential poll has a history of turning the country's political fortunes. The numbers game for Rashtrapati Bhavan began in 1967, when the united Opposition under the banner of Samyukta Vidhayak Dal nominated former Chief Justice of India K. Subba Rao. Justice Rao was the author of the famous Golaknath vs. State of Punjab verdict where he ruled that Fundamental Rights could not be amended by Parliament. The Congress party, led by Indira Gandhi, was quick to oppose Subba Rao. She sought support from the Left parties to get Zakir Hussain elected as the President. When President Zakir Hussain died on May 3, 1969, in office, Indira stunned her own party managers by backing V.V. Giri. The official Congress party had issued a whip to all party members to vote for Neelam Sanjeeva Reddy. Indira appealed to all Congress MPs and MLAs to vote according to their "conscience". Giri was elected and Indira was subsequently expelled from the Congress.
However, the Opposition could stand divided if Modi springs a surprise by fielding BJP patriarch L.K. Advani. A section, including Congress president Sonia Gandhi, would then be reluctant to force a contest, sources said. In her assessment, Advani has evolved to be statesman-like. However, the former deputy Prime Minister's involvement in the Babri demolition case may cause deep divisions among the 17 Opposition parties that recently buried their differences and met in New Delhi to plan the strategy for the presidential elections.
At the meet, many leaders informally weighed the option of fielding Sharad Yadav. A warhorse, he had as a young socialist leader in 1974 provided a spark to the movement led by Jayaprakash Narayan by winning the Jabalpur Lok Sabha bypoll against the Congress. That was not the only time when Yadav found himself in the spotlight. In 1981, Yadav stood to challenge Rajiv Gandhi from Amethi. Rajiv was contesting from the family pocket borough to succeed his brother Sanjay.
While the Opposition has said it expects Prime Minister Modi to take the lead in working out a consensus, in 2007 the UPA had not cared to invite L.K. Advani and others before finalising Pratibha Patil's name for President. Sonia, along with the Left, had also ignored outgoing President A.P.J. Kalam's last-minute desire to be renominated as a consensus candidate.
Other than Rajendra Prasad, no other President has earned a second term though successive occupants from the days of Shankar Dayal Sharma to Kalam have tried to lobby for it.
Modi is under no compulsion to consider Pranab Mukherjee, a UPA nominee and former Congressman, whom the BJP and allies had opposed even in 2014 in spite of Mukherjee's excellent rapport with Advani and a number of other BJP leaders.
The presidential poll offers a window of opportunity to an otherwise demoralised and dispirited Opposition. The combined Opposition has more votes than the NDA but regional players like ADMK, TRS, YSR Congress, BJD and other non-NDA parties have the potential of breaking ranks and helping out the Modi government.
An electoral college, consisting of elected members of both Houses of Parliament and elected members of the legislative Assemblies of states and Union Territories of Delhi and Puducherry, elects the President of India. The total strength of the electoral college is 1098,882 and the NDA on its own has a strength of 53,1442, falling short of just 18,000 votes from the majority mark of 54,9442.
The NDA has to manage the shortfall with the help of the AIADMK, the TRS and the BJD. The Opposition, if it wants to win, will have to ensure not only that it stays united but also that it wins over one or two NDA allies.
The presidential poll has a history of turning the country's political fortunes. The numbers game for Rashtrapati Bhavan began in 1967, when the united Opposition under the banner of Samyukta Vidhayak Dal nominated former Chief Justice of India K. Subba Rao. Justice Rao was the author of the famous Golaknath vs. State of Punjab verdict where he ruled that Fundamental Rights could not be amended by Parliament. The Congress party, led by Indira Gandhi, was quick to oppose Subba Rao. She sought support from the Left parties to get Zakir Hussain elected as the President. When President Zakir Hussain died on May 3, 1969, in office, Indira stunned her own party managers by backing V.V. Giri. The official Congress party had issued a whip to all party members to vote for Neelam Sanjeeva Reddy. Indira appealed to all Congress MPs and MLAs to vote according to their "conscience". Giri was elected and Indira was subsequently expelled from the Congress.

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