NEW DELHI : Prime Minister Narendra Modi met today with the most senior leaders from his party, including BJP chief Amit Shah. The agenda was focused on deciding the ruling party’s choice for the next President of India. An announcement is likely later today, said sources.
CPM leader Sitaram Yechury has said that if the government does not name its candidate by tomorrow, the opposition will share its nominee, which would force an election.The PM met with the BJP’s parliamentary board, its top decision-making body. Present at the session was Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj, who has refuted reports of being a top contender for President.
The opposition has said its preference is to be formally informed of the BJP’s choice before deciding whether it will field its own candidate.Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar said today that so far, no candidate has been shared for discussion by the government. Time is running out, the opposition leader warned. “They haven’t decided on any name until now..we can wait for 2-3 days but we cannot wait forever.”
BJP chief Amit Shah made an important visit yesterday – to disgruntled ally Shiv Sena to seek its support. Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray is keen on either MS Swaminathan, scientist and father of India’s Green Revolution or Mohan Bhagwat, who is the chief of the BJP’s ideological parent, the Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh or RSS.
If an election is held, the BJP and its allies are positioned to make their candidate win because regional parties, including some from the south, have promised to back the ruling alliance. The BJP has assigned three senior ministers – Rajnath Singh, Arun Jaitley, Venkaiah Naidu – to consult with allies like the Sena and opposition parties. On Friday, the BJP’s representatives met with Congress chief Sonia Gandhi and Mr Yechury of the CPM.
In the two last Presidential elections, the Sena supported Pranab Mukherjee and Pratibha Patil, both of whom were candidates of the previous Congress-led government. So the Sena voted in favour of the BJP’s rival. All BJP lawmakers and ministers have been summoned to Delhi as the party gears up for the nomination process of its candidates. Prime Minister Narendra Modi departs for the US on Friday so all formalities are likely to be completed before then.
Meanwhile, The JDU Leader And Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar said that the government must name its choice for President of India now, said opposition leader Nitish Kumar today, making it clear that consultations mean nothing unless a candidate is shortlisted and put up for review.The Bihar Chief Minister said that so far, the government’s outreach has been vague. “We can wait for 2-3 days, but we cannot wait forever,” he said.
If the government and opposition cannot agree on a candidate, an election will be held on July 17 with counting of votes three days later. Both sides have indicated they would like to avoid that. For its part, the BJP has appointed three ministers including Arun Jaitley to seek feedback from the opposition, which has in turn said that its preference is for a nominee who is acceptable to all parties.
“Day before yesterday, Arun Jaitley called me, but there was no mention of any name,” the Bihar Chief Minister said, adding that the opposition will make its move on Thursday, meaning that it will either list its own candidate or make its stand on the government’s choice clear by then.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi leaves for the US on Friday. He met with top leaders from his party this morning to discuss the replacement for President Pranab Mukherjee, whose five-year term expires on July 24. The BJP’s delegates met with Congress leader Sonia Gandhi and Sitaram Yechury of the Left on Friday.
“No name came up from the government side, and they said they have not yet decided on the name. Whenever they decide on the name, they will seek our cooperation and come back. Till the time any name comes, there is no question of discussion or support,” said the Congress’ Ghulam Nabi Azad. Mr Yechury denounced the conferral as little more than “a PR exercise.”
The opposition has also formed a committee of leaders who will review the government’s choice, when it is made known, and decide whether to field a candidate of its own. The BJP and its allies have won the backing of regional parties like those who govern Tamil Nadu and Telangana, which means the ruling coalition’s candidate should win an election easily. However, the opposition feels that combining on a candidate could help it practice its strategy as a combined front against PM Modi ahead of the general election in 2019.