Stating that there had been few Presidents in the recent past who had been able to function independently of the ruling party, the Shiv Sena on Friday said that had Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) chief Sharad Pawar assented to be the joint Opposition’s candidate, the scales would have been tilted in his favour and he would have made one such President with independent views.
Sena MP Sanjay Raut further said that while his party would not take the initiative in fielding a presidential candidate, both opposition leaders like West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee as well as senior Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leaders were reportedly in talks with Maharashtra CM Uddhav Thackeray on this issue.
“Sharad Pawar is such a tall leader, the veritable Bheeshma (after a protagonist in the epic Mahabharata) of the opposition politics today. Had he consented to be the opposition’s candidate, the election would have been interesting as well as prestigious and the scales would perhaps have tilted in Mr. Pawar’s favour as he would have received votes from a number of non-BJP states,” said Mr. Raut.
The Sena is an ally of the NCP and the Congress in the State’s ruling ‘Maha Vikas Aghadi’ government.
Remarking that there had been few Presidents who have been able to operate independently barring A.P.J. Abdul Kalam and Pranab Mukherjee, he said that the ruling party would get a candidate who would likely be a yes-man if the Opposition could not find a candidate of the stature of Mr. Pawar.
When asked whether Sena would take the lead in fielding a suitable candidate, Mr. Raut replied in the negative. He, however, said that both BJP as well as opposition leaders were holding parleys with Maharashtra CM Uddhav Thackeray on the presidential poll.
Votes from anti-BJP states
“The BJP do not have the numbers to win the polls…the contest is evenly matched if one goes by the vote arithmetic across the country. There are big anti-BJP states like Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu, West Bengal. While Mr. Pawar has firmly declined to contest, had he so assented, then he would have received significant votes from many states,” said the Sena MP, who has been consistently pitching for Mr. Pawar to be the Opposition’s presidential candidate.
An editorial today in the party’s mouthpiece Saamana, (of which Mr. Raut is the executive editor) said possible candidates like Gopalkrishna Gandhi (Mahatma Gandhi’s grandson) and National Conference leader Farooq Abdullah lacked the “personality or the heft” to give a stiff fight to the BJP.
The editorial questioned as to how the Opposition would be able to give a capable Prime Minister if it could not field a strong candidate for the Presidential Polls.
“If not Mr. Pawar, then who [will be the Opposition’s candidate]?” said the Sena editorial, stating the Opposition’s seriousness to give a strong Presidential candidate would have been displayed had it begun the spadework to find such a candidate six months earlier.
India will hold its sixteenth Presidential elections on July 18. The process to file nominations for the polls began on Wednesday.
Earlier on June 15, representatives of 17 opposition parties, including the Congress, the DMK, the NCP and the Samajwadi Party had attended a meeting called by West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee to build a consensus on fielding a joint candidate against the BJP-led NDA in the Presidential elections.
While opposition leaders urged Mr. Pawar to be their joint candidate, the NCP chief declined to contest.