Once again, political chess is being played for the post of the head of state. The election for the next president will be held on 17 July and the results will be declared on 20 July. The term of the 13th president, Pranab Mukherjee, will end on 24 July while Vice-President Hamid Ansari will complete his term in the end of August. The most important facet of this presidential election is the central role the Dalits and the Backwards are going to play. There are demands within the NDA, the alliance in power at the Centre, for a non-Brahmin president. Similarly, the opposition is also making the moves keeping the Dalits and OBCs in mind.
Despite these compulsions, sources tell us that the BJP and its alliance partners are getting ready to announce RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat as the NDA presidential candidate. Prime Minister Narendra Modi and BJP President Amit Shah have set up a three-member committee to help take a decision on the matter. However, the three members are from the BJP – Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh, Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley and Union Minister for Urban Development Venkaiah Naidu. The other parties in the NDA remain unrepresented. These three ministers are both loyal members of the Modi-Shah team and hard-core RSS stalwarts.
If Mohan Bhagwat’s name is approved, it will open up the possibility of one Brahmin succeeding another at the Rashtrapati Bhawan. Meanwhile, the search is on for an Adivasi face for the vice-presidential candidate. According to sources, Kariya Munda, the BJP MP from Khunti in Jharkhand is the frontrunner. Munda is a former deputy speaker of the Lok Sabha. The BJP’s three-member committee will suggest names on 18 June.
On the other hand, the opposition parties will meet on 14 June. Sources tell us Mulayam Singh Yadav leads the race in the opposition camp. In any case, Sonia Gandhi has already started working on bringing all the opposition parties together on a common platform for the presidential election in July. As the talk of the imminent presidential election took centerstage, Sonia Gandhi set up a ten-member sub-group of the opposition parties in early June.
The sub-group of the opposition parties will officially begin meeting on 14 June and the elections for the president and vice-president will be discussed. Among the members of the sub-group are Congress leaders Ghulam Nabi Azad, Mallikarjun Kharge, Janata Dal-United’s Sharad Yadav, Rashtriya Janata Dal chief Lalu Prasad Yadav, CPI (M) General Secretary Sitaram Yechury, Trinamool Congress MP Derek O’Brien, Samajwadi Party’s Ram Gopal Yadav, Bahujan Samaj Party’s Rajya Sabha MP Satish Chandra Mishra, Draviad Munnetra Kazhagam’s R.S. Bharathi and Nationalist Congress Party’s Praful Patel.
Apart from the strength of numbers in this political game, what is going to matter is whether the opposition can stay united. Even now, the Left parties are shouting out Mahatma Gandhi’s grandson Gopalkrishna Gandhi’s name for president while Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar still expects the BJP to announce a candidate who would also be acceptable to the opposition.
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