Having allowed the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) seize the initiative on the presidential election, the Bharatiya Janata Party-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) appears divided on the strategy it should adopt on the election and the vice-presidential poll that would follow.
A section within the NDA is in favour of fielding its own presidential candidate on the ground that the grouping should not align with the ruling alliance at a juncture when the UPA's popularity has hit the rock bottom. Another view is that the NDA should consider a “quid pro quo” with the UPA. It would entail the NDA supporting the UPA on its presidential candidate and expect the UPA to support its nominee for Vice-President.
The confusion within the NDA is evident from the fact that the grouping has so far not met formally to take a view on the presidential and vice-presidential elections scheduled in July and August.
The stated position of the NDA is that it would consider its strategy after the UPA formally declares its presidential candidate.
By letting the UPA take the lead on the presidential election, the NDA has conceded that as things stand it was not in a position to rally the support of all political parties outside the UPA in favour of a candidate either its choice or that of a group of parties outside the ruling alliance.
Two factors have complicated the NDA's strategy on the issue. The remarks made by Leader of the Opposition in the Lok Sabha Sushma Swaraj on April 30 that the BJP would not support the candidature of Pranab Mukherjee as he is a Congress leader and Vice-President Hamid Ansari as he lacked the “stature” for the post was resented by several parties in the NDA.
There have been suggestions that senior Akali Dal Leader Parkash Singh Badal has been sounded as a possible vice-presidential candidate by some quarters in the UPA. Mr. Badal has a chance only if the NDA agrees to back the presidential candidature of the UPA as a “quid pro quo” for the vice-presidential election.
Ever since the resentment among the NDA constituents on the remarks of Ms. Swaraj, the BJP has been extra cautious on the presidential election. The subject figured as a matter of fact at the Mumbai National Executive of the party in May last week.
In his inaugural address to the National Executive meeting, party president Nitin Gadkari said any attempt by the Congress to foist a presidential candidate ‘loyal' to the Nehru-Gandhi dynasty must not be allowed and his party would strive to create a broad consensus among all non-Congress parties for fielding a “worthy” candidate.
Maintaining that the Congress' chief criterion for selecting its candidate to occupy Rashtrapati Bhavan appears to be loyalty to the dynasty and not loyalty to the Constitution, Mr. Gadkari said the BJP, along with other non-Congress parties, would aim to field a candidate who can, besides safeguarding the Constitution, further add luster to the highest office of the Republic.
In response to questions, party chief spokesperson Ravi Shankar Prasad, who briefed the media, said it would be unfair to expect the BJP to reveal its strategy on the presidential election when the Congress was yet to declare its choice.