The ruling NDA and the opposition both declared their nominees for the upcoming presidential polls in July, with the BJP’s parliamentary board nominating former Jharkhand governor Droupadi Murmu, who hails from Odisha and will be the first Tribal woman to be President of India. The Opposition declared former finance minister Yashwant Sinha as its candidate.
The BJP called a meeting of its parliamentary board, of which Prime Minister Narendra Modi is a member, late on Tuesday evening and after a meetings lasting a little over an hour declared Ms Murmu’s name as candidate. Other members of the Parliamentary Board, the BJP’s highest decision making body, include Defence Minister Rajnath Singh, Home Minister Amit Shah, Roads and Highways Minister Nitin Gadkari, Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan and BJP general secretary (organisation) B L Santhosh.
BJP president J P Nadda said that while a consensus candidate for the post of president was always desirable it did not materialise. “Both defence minister Rajnath Singh and I spoke to leaders of the various parties including the UPA, but a commonality was not emerging. Therefore we decided to field a common NDA candidate for the post of president of India,” he said.
He added that during the meeting of the BJP’s parliamentary board, around 20 names were discussed as possible candidates, but it was felt that the new President of India should hail from the East, should be a woman and also belong to the Adivasi community (Ms Murmu belongs to the Santhal community), which has never had a president elected from its community. “Looking at all this, it was decided that former Jharkhand Governor, Draupadi Murmu, would be the NDA’s candidate for President of India,” said Mr Nadda. He said the details of nominations etc will be taken up in the next day or so and also shared.
Speaking about Ms Murmu, Mr Nadda said that just like India’s second president, Dr S Radhakrishnan was identified with the work of education, so was Ms Murmu. “She was a teacher and later went into politics, as a councillor, then an MLA, as a minister for commerce, fisheries and animal husbandry. In 2007, she also received the Neelkanth award for best MLA. Between 2015-2021, she was governor of Jharkhand and is an apt choice for the position. She is a leader of great sensitivity, whatever responsibility has been accorded to her she has fulfilled it with grace and ability,” said Mr Nadda.
Opposition goes with Yashwant Sinha
For the opposition, the choice devolving on Mr Sinha took a circuitous route. After two rounds of deliberations and many informal meetings, the 84-year-old bureaucrat-turned politician Mr Sinha was declared common candidate of the opposition for the upcoming Presidential elections. Mr. Sinha was elected after three public figures — NCP patriarch Sharad Pawar, former J&K Chief Minister Farooq Abdullah, and former West Bengal Governor Gopalkrishna Gandhi — refused to contest.
Tuesday’s meeting was chaired by Mr Pawar, and attended by representatives of 14 opposition parties. He said at the press conference that he had spoken to Telangana Chief Minister K. Chandrashekhar Rao and Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal. The Opposition, he said, could count on the support of both the TRS and the AAP.
Congress leader Jairam Ramesh read out from a joint statement of the opposition parties, at the press meet. “Ideally, a consensus candidate of the government and the Opposition should be elected for the highest office of the Republic. However, the initiative for this should have been taken by the government. We regret the fact that the Modi government made no serious efforts in this direction. We, therefore, appeal to all political parties to support the candidature of Mr. Sinha so that the nation can have a worthy Rashtrapati elected unopposed.”
With both the names now out, the NDA has an advantage over the UPA, not just in terms of numbers, but also in terms of the candidate, as the idea of the first Adivasi to ever be President of India will be a powerful inducement to get support from different fence sitting political parties like the Biju Janata Dal (BJD), the YSRCP, and others.