While Prime Minister Narendra Modi, true to his wont, maintains a tight lid over the NDA’s nominee for the Presidential election, clamour within the BJP is growing for a possible toss between the “mentor (L K Advani ) and his two protégés (Sushma Swaraj and Sumitra Mahajan)”.
With the BJP seeking to nip the emergence of the Opposition jamboree in the bud, there is a sense within the party that Modi may choose one who could isolate the Congress further.
That the BJP has drawn a clear line of the next occupant of the Rashtrapati Bhavan being “one of high stature and from the saffron stable” has triggered “the game of elimination”, with party leaders dismissing the prospects of the likes of late APJ Abdul Kalam making the cut. Names of former BJP chief Murali Manohar Joshi and Uttar Pradesh Governor Ram Naik are also doing the rounds on the grounds that they enjoy the blessings of the RSS.
What works for and against the five BJP hopefuls for Rashtrapati Bhavan.
L K Advani
Credited to have built the BJP with Atal Bihari Vajpayee, Advani, 89, is seen as the tallest saffron leader who can match the stature of President Pranab Mukherjee. His bond with RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat is another plus in his favour. Within the BJP, Advani is also seen as a candidate who can pull the CMs of Bihar, West Bengal and Odisha to the NDA, besides reining in the Shiv Sena.
Against: Besides his age, Advani’s relations with Modi had soured before the latter was declared PM candidate. Advani revolted and resigned from party positions. He was pacified by Bhagwat.
Not in the best of health, Sushma may be elevated as President by Modi as part of the larger Cabinet reshuffle to infuse energy and youth in his Council of Ministers. Swaraj can become a near-consensus candidate, with the possibility of even the Congress, Left and Trinamool Congress supporting her candidature.
Against: Her being a popular Minister for External Affairs may make Modi keep her in the Cabinet. She also apparently had reservations BJP’s move to project Modi as the official PM candidate.
M M Joshi
The former BJP chief is seen as a favourite of the RSS, who steadfastly carried out the saffron agenda when he was the Union Minister for Human Resource Development in the Vajpayee Cabinet.
Against: He does not seem to enjoy the stature that is expected by the BJP from a President-hopeful. Besides his hardline Hindutva image, he looks in contrast to Modi’s stress on leadership for “new India”. He’s also seen too independent to be a “rubber stamp”.
A staunch Modi loyalist, Mahajan saw her stock rising in NDA-II. She enjoys the support of the Prime Minister and the RSS.
Against: That she has delivered a perfect script in running the Lok Sabha may work against her, as Modi may retain her as Speaker in anticipation of the House becoming more acrimonious as 2019 Lok Sabha election approaches.
The Uttar Pradesh governor is a BJP veteran having been one of the tallest leaders of Maharashtra where the party is slugging it out with the Shiv Sena on a regular basis.
Against: He’s seen as too lightweight to become a Presendial candidate, while Maharashtra politics has gone for major changes from the time of his active politics days.