BJP would face little challenge in electing next President of India
As the state assembly election results in Uttar Pradesh came trickling in, it was not just clear that the BJP would come to power in the largest state of India, it was also evident that the ruling party would have little difficulty in getting their chosen candidate elected as the President of India. Given the advantage that the BJP has in terms of numbers, it would face little challenge in garnering the numbers it additionally needs to be able to ensure the victory of its candidate.
This would be the second occasion that the BJP would be the key player in the choice of the nation's President. In 2002, Prime Minister Vajpayee sprung a surprise by nominating APJ Abdul Kalam as the NDA nominee for the Presidency. That time around, the space for political maneuvering available to the BJP was severely limited given the compulsions of alliance politics. The party and its leadership may have well wanted a hardcore supporter of the party to reside in Rashtrapati Bhavan but had to reconcile themselves to choosing someone distant from party politics. The calculated move to nominate Dr Kalam, benefitted the party in other tactical ways. This time around, it is clearly evident that the BJP would not like to miss out on an opportunity to have as the First citizen of India, an individual who represents the core philosophy of the party on the one hand and would provide the right political ambience for the ruling party in crucial next five years.
Given the style of functioning of the present leadership of the BJP, it is evident that the name would be revealed only when one gets close to the final date of nomination. It would clearly be an individual who has the full faith and confidence of that leadership. Given the experience of the last three years on the way Chief Ministers have been selected, it is clear that names doing the rounds at the moment are mere speculation by the media. Presidential hopefuls must be hoping for limited media visibility as such publicity often runs counter to the actual nomination!
Many names are in circulation. Early in the discussion, BJP veteran Lal Krishna Advani's name was mentioned. It was even reported in the media that the Prime Minister spoke of the BJP Patriarch's nomination as a Guru Dakshina. All such talk soon died down and the Supreme Court stand on the Babri Masjd demolition case as come as a persuasive reason to side step his name, Two women political leaders from the BJP have also been frequently mentioned. Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj and Jharkhand Governor Draupadi Murmu are considered to be in the list of probable's. The Foreign Minster has done a commendable job in the last three years but her health may not permit her to maintain the rigorous schedule that is expected and Presidency may be the logical step forward. In the case of the Jharkhand Governor, being a Tribal, coming from the rank and file of the party and having being involved in its frontal organizations, she is being projected as the most suitable choice. In the days ahead many more names are likely to surface.
Speculation is also rife that rife that the leadership could sprig a surprise by choosing a public figure who is distant from party politics, possibly an Amitabh Bachchan or eve a Rajnikanth!
As the date for the nominations approaches, it will be increasingly clear that the decision makers in the ruling party would prefer someone who has been part of active party politics, for three specific reasons. Firstly, the BJP would not like to lose out on an opportunity to have as the First citizen someone who is identified to be close to the party and has the support of its frontal organizations. Secondly, given the style of politics and making of choices by the current leadership, it would be someone in whom the current leadership, especially the Prime Minister, has unquestioning faith and trust. The nominee will be someone who is not merely a party loyalist but someone the Prime Minister implicitly trusts. Lastly, given the importance of the next five years for both the Prime Minister and the party, the Presidential nominee would be someone that the leadership feels comfortable working with and as mentioned earlier provide the right political ambience at the Rashtrapati Bhavan.
Given the fact that the Prime Minister is elected to the Lok Sabha from the North, the new President could well be from South India from among the senior loyalists in the party and the Cabinet. The Vice President's post could then go to a leader from the Hindi heartland.
(Dr Sandeep Shastri is a leading political scientist)