Countdown for the election of next President of India has begun and the poll schedule can be announced any time. Opposition parties led by Sonia Gandhi are busy discussing among themselves a common candidate if the ruling combine decides to put its own candidate unilaterally without evolving a consensus on the next President.
Before General Elections of the five states held earlier this year, ruling combine was not in a comfortable position, so long as the election of the President was concerned. President is elected by an electoral college consisting of Members of Parliament and the Legislative Assemblies of all States. Those Rajya Sabha MPs, who have been nominated by the President, are not the part of the Electoral College.
After stunning success in Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand now, the ruling NDA is confidant of ensuring the victory of its candidate in Presidential election, because in the Electoral College it is short of just around 20000 votes. This is not a big gap and can be filled by taking advantage of disunity among the opposition parties. That is why; some opposition parties are trying to unite the opposition and they have asked Sonia Gandhi to take initiative to evolve a consensus over a combined opposition candidate and ensure all non NDA parties support him/her.
The main problem for opposition to field a common candidate is the political parties of Tamilnadu. DMK and AIADMK are two main parties of the state, but these two parties normally do not take combined decision on national political issues. Suppose, DMK is in favor of a common candidate of opposition, but there is no guarantee that AIADMK will also have the same opinion. Furthermore, AIADMK itself is a divided house and both of the factions are trying to be in good book of the Central government. By taking advantage of the faction fight of AIADMK, ruling BJP can muster its support in favor of its candidate and it will have no problem in filling up the gap of about 20000 votes.
Inversely, if the dominant faction of AIADMK wants to support opposition candidate, it will not be a problem for NDA to poach the support of DMK, which never wants to be seen with AIADMK in national politics. DMK has around 90 MLAs in Tamilnadu Assembly and it is in a position to provide winning edge to the ruling combine at Centre, though DMK had fought the last Assembly elections in alliance with Congress.
The weak point of NDA is Shiva Sena. It has record to go against its partner BJP in many Presidential elections in the past. In 2007 election, it had supported Pratibha Patil of Congress, though BJP?s candidate was Bhairon Singh Shekhawat. Since Ms Patil was from Maharashtra, Shiva Sena supremo Bal Thackeray declared that he will support a Maratha Manus for the post of the President of India.
Shiva Sena supported Congress candidate Pratibha Patil by invoking its slogan of Maratha Manus, but in 2012 Presidential election, too, it took a different position and supported the Congress candidate Pranab Mukherji.
This is the reason; BJP may not depend on Shiva Sena. If opposition candidate is Sharad Pawar, then there is maximum possibility that the party founded by Bal Thackeray may support the opposition candidate by invoking the slogan of Maratha Manus once again. That will put NDA on the edge of sword and it may have to put extra efforts to enlist the support of some opposition parties to ensure the victory of its candidate.
Biju Janata Dal is another party, which is known for maintaining equidistant from both BJP and Congress. It has been ruling Odisha for more than 15 years in continuity and it has around two dozen MPs in Parliament and over hundred MLAs in Odisha Assembly. It is facing formidable political challenge from BJP in the state and it would not like to join hands with the ruling party of the centre at the moment.
But, if Narendra Modi fields Draupadi Murmu, the Governor of Jharkhand as the Presidential candidate, Naveen Patnaik will found himself compelled to support her, because she is from Odisha. In this way, NDA can fulfill the loss of Shiva Sena by garnering the support of BJD of Odisha.
To avoid the contest, opposition has brought Pranab Mukherji as the consensus candidate and wants the ruling NDA to persuade him to accept the post for the second time. Now, it is up to Narendra Modi to decide, whether he wants a President of his choice or go for Pranab Mukherji as a consensus candidate.
-Contributed by Kriti
Picture Credits: qutubmail.blogspot.com