Presidential poll: How NDA lost the plot

By Saswat Panigrahi | Last Updated: Friday, June 29, 2012 - 18:30

Saswat Panigrahi

The NDA is a divided house over their choice on presidential candidate.

Both Shiv Sena and JD (U) have declared to back UPA nominee Pranab Mukherjee in the race to Raisina Hill.

The BJP, on the other hand, has decided to back former speaker Purno Agitok Sangma for president. Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD), another NDA constituent has chosen to stand by BJP’s presidential choice.

New NDA entrant Janata Party went a step ahead with Janata Party chief Subramanian Swamy declaring that “Sangma will emerge victorious”. In fact Swamy is being credited for building an NDA-Sangma alliance.

JMM, which runs a coalition with the BJP in Jharkhand could not but support Sangma in the milieu of his tribal origin.

This is not to dispute that UPA’s presidential candidate Pranab Mukherjee is a tall leader with vast experience in government and Parliament. Moreover, he has a clear edge in the electoral college.

But, in a presidential election, broad consensus could only emerge on an apolitical candidate. Mukherjee is an old Congress man and his candidature was declared by none other than Congress president and UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi. Had BJP supported Mukherjee in the presidential race, the party would have to bear the brunt of siding with the Congress-led UPA.

Well, BJP’s decision to shoot down the consensus call on Mukherjee’s candidature by throwing its weight behind Sangma makes some political sense. At least, by doing so the saffron party has underscored its credentials as an opposition party.

But BJP’s support to Sangma was a delayed decision. Indeed, Sangma was part BJP’s plan B.

First, the saffron party had jumped the gun and rushed to own up former president APJ Abdul Kalam in the race for Rashtrapati Bhavan. That was BJP’s plan-A. When Kalam refused to enter the fray, the BJP looked at plan-B.

After all, Sangma was not originally a BJP candidate. He was a preferred choice of BJD supremo Naveen Patnaik and AIDMK patron Jayalalithaa.

BJP’s decision to support Sangma has something to do with the 2014 general elections. Party insiders say BJP veteran LK Advani sees Sangma’s candidature as a means to re-cultivate ex-NDA allies BJD and AIDMK, whose support he feels “vital” for the 2014 elections.

Also, it was Advani who encouraged Jaswant Singh to campaign for the vice-presidency, though majority in the party didn’t bother to take it seriously.

The problem was in the whole event. The saffron party didn’t do its homework before making the move and thereby created a mess. But who is to be blamed for the Presidential poll mess in the BJP? Is it the individual leadership or the collective leadership or both?

Now, it is almost clear that the party is not in a fighting mode in this presidential election.

The presidential poll has once again brought the faultiness in the BJP and the NDA to the fore. It is an irony that the principal opposition party of the country could not come out with a candidate of its own. Finally, it had to settle with a presidential candidate imported from the UPA ranks.

The presidential contest this time is a token one amidst clear indications that Pranab Mukherjee is all set to make it to the Rashtrapati Bhavan. In the end, neither BJP nor Sangma would gain anything.

First Published: Friday, June 29, 2012 - 20:04

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