NEW DELHI: Who will blink first in the Battle for Raisina Hill? According to an insider in the government, strong numbers under its belt gives the BJP the confidence to field its own candidate for Rashtrapathi Bhavan without reaching out to Opposition parties.
For the first time in three decades, the ruling party will announce its choice without seeking consensus; in 1987, the Congress had fielded R Venkataraman for President, ignoring the Opposition.
It is believed that Prime Minister Narendra Modi and BJP president Amit Shah have shortlisted names, which were then discussed at Shah’s meeting with RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat in Nagpur last week.
Parliamentary affairs minister Ananth Kumar is likely to be the BJP’s Chief Electoral Officer in the presidential poll manage-ment.
Ananth Kumar will coordinate with NDA allies to garner support for the BJP nominee, whose name will be announced on June 15. Kumar will then accompany the candidate to all states seeking votes.
The BJP-led alliance is almost at the halfway mark after its massive election wins in Uttarakhand and Uttar Pradesh in March. They hold over 48.3 per cent votes in their kitty and need only 1.7 per cent votes more to win.
The electoral college of the Presidential election has a strength of 10,95,619 votes, with the NDA’s share being 5,27,371 and UP commanding just 1,73,849 votes.
Modi’s recent parleys with Jagan Mohan Reddy and Telengana boss Chandrasekhar Rao are expected to yield results in spite of the recent spat between the BJP and the TRS.
Meanwhile, Congress President Sonia Gandhi is on overdrive reaching out to 17 Opposition parties to field a common candidate against the NDA’s nominee.
Though Congress has decided to field its own candidate in the event of her mission failing, it’s for first time since Independence that the party is in talks with allies to agree on a unanimous candidate.
Sonia is playing the role of a sheet anchor by bringing all non-NDA national parties on a common platform since the presidential election is considered a “litmus test” for the party and a rehearsal to forming a Grand Alliance for the 2019 General Elections.
While opposition parties think they are fighting a lost battle, they want to make a statement against the Modi government.
The Presidential election is on July 17. Nominations can be filed between June 20 and 28. Counting of votes is on July 20. The incumbent is eligible for re-election, as no term limits exist in India.