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Minister or Guv: Who’ll be sent to Rashtrapati Bhavan?
The process of India’s Presidential Elections has officially begun. With this, the ruling alliance and the Opposition have sped up their search for candidates. Meanwhile, two possibilities are being mulled in Delhi’s political arena: Firstly, it is being speculated that someone sitting in Raj Bhawan will become the President, while the second point of view is that a Central Minister will be sent to the Rashtrapati Bhavan.
The BJP’s National President, Amit Shah, has set up a committee to zero in on the Presidential candidate and it comprises Arun Jaitley, Venkaiah Naidu, and Rajnath Singh.
Apart from some Cabinet ministers, eyes are also set on Raj Bhawans. Sources say that there is a flurry of activity in several Raj Bhawans. The name of Jharkhand Governor Draupadi Murmu is being widely discussed and she is thought to be the strongest contender for the post. She could prove to be a trump card for the BJP in the politics of Odisha, Jharkhand, and Chhattisgarh.
Apart from her, the names of almost half a dozen Governors are doing the rounds, including that of Maharashtra Governor C Vidyasagar Rao. He has been put in the list of probable candidates, seeing the BJP’s attempts in South India.
Other than him, Governor of Kerala and former Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, P Sathasivam, could also be in the running. SC Jamir, who had been appointed Odisha’s Governor during the UPA regime, is also a probable candidate, as is Manipur Governor Najma Heptulla, West Bengal Governor Keshari Nath Tripathi, and Uttar Pradesh Governor Ram Naik. There are almost half a dozen candidates for the Vice-President’s post, which will be vacated in August.
WHAT WILL SENA DEMAND?
The BJP leaders are quite certain that the Shiv Sena will extend its support for the Presidential Elections. In the past two elections, the Shiv Sena had supported a Congress candidate. In 2007, the party had supported Pratibha Patil as she is a Marathi, and in 2012, it had backed Pranab Mukherjee for unknown reasons. This time though, the BJP is confident that the Shiv Sena will stand behind the NDA candidate.
However, it is also being said that the Shiv Sena will demand something in return, but nobody knows what it would be. The Shiv Sena might just open up before the committee of three ministers. Sources say Rajnath Singh, Arun Jaitley, and Venkaiah Naidu will talk to the Shiv Sena chief, Uddhav Thackeray, to finalise the name of the consensus candidate. Uddhav might put his demands before the committee and can also talk to Amit Shah.
The demands of the Shiv Sena can be political and probably in favour of farmers, claim the leaders of Maharashtra. Though, the Devendra Fadnavis Government has accepted the demands of farmers and decided to waive off their loans amounting to Rs1 lakh crore. However, in all probability, the Shiv Sena could demand more loan waiver or other facilities for farmers. Apart from that, some demands could pertain to the party also. In the Central council of ministers, one seat is vacant for the Sena. So, the party can demand a good ministry. It can also press for greater share in the State Government.
On the other hand, some BJP leaders feel that the candidate will be chosen in such a way that the Shiv Sena will support under compulsion. Many Opposition leaders can also support the Government. So, it is also a possibility that the Sena’s demands might just be turned down.
REPORT CARD OF MINISTERS
After the Presidential Elections, some believe that Prime Minister Narendra Modi might make some changes in his Cabinet. Sources in the party say the PMO and Cabinet Secretariat are preparing report cards of ministers. Recently, there was news that the PMO had sought a report from ministers disclosing which file was pending with them and for how long. This means the speed of progression of files is being noted. Party leaders say the report card is not being prepared on that basis alone; it is only a part of the report card. Many points are being considered to prepare the performance report cards.
The Government has also prepared the report card of ministries on completion of three years of its tenure. Initiatives taken by ministries and execution of projects have been included in that. The speed of completion of projects is also a major criterion. Apart from that, what and how a ministry has contributed for ambitious projects announced by the PM will also be looked upon. It is being said that surveys conducted by media houses will also be considered for the rating.
FACE OF THE OPPOSITION
The greatest challenge before the Opposition parties is who will be the contender against PM Modi? The Opposition has a daunting challenge to form a grand alliance, but to elect its leader is a bigger challenge. The Congress leaders say Rahul Gandhi is capable enough to compete against Modi in the next elections. On the other hand, the JDU leaders are claiming that Nitish Kumar is PM material. The NCP is of the view that Sharad Pawar is the best bet, and the TMC has already said that Delhi is not far.
But the reality is that neither is there consensus on one name nor is the Opposition confident that any leader can pose a challenge for Modi. So, the hunt is on for such a leader who can be relied upon by the entire country. That is why President Pranab Mukherjee’s name is doing the rounds. Many Congress leaders apparently want that after retirement, Mukherjee should join active politics and become the face of the Opposition. Though there is no such precedent in India, and a President has never joined active politics. But there is no bar on it constitutionally.
Apart from the present clan of leaders, one name is being discussed on social media and that is of Arun Shourie. Many people have suggested that the Opposition should put forward his name to counter Modi. Recently, Shourie attacked the Modi Government during a function at the Delhi Press Club and that is being widely discussed. It is being said that the number of Shourie’s supporters has gone up. The intellectual class is sharing his speech on social media. For now, the Opposition’s search for a strong leader like Modi continues.
BLESSED WITH THE BEST
The BJP is blessed with intelligent leaders. Prime Minister Modi and Amit Shah are adept at creating a strong image and defeating the Opposition — in politics or in mind games! That is why Shah is claiming in all his speeches that Modi is the greatest and most popular leader of the country after Independence, eliminating all attempts to challenge his position and stature.
The other aspect of Shah’s strategy is to set big targets for the party. He doesn’t seek to attain the target of simple majority. That means he never claims that the BJP is going to form the Government, he sets the target of seats. Recently, he was on a Chhattisgarh tour and put a target of 65 seats although the elections will be held at the end of 2018. In the 90-seat Assembly, 45 is the magical figure. At present, the BJP has 49 seats but Shah has set a target of 65 seats. Next year, the anti-incumbency factor might be discussed, but before that he has tried to turn it pro-incumbency.
The BJP has been ruling Gujarat for the past 20 years, but this will be the first time that the party will fight without Modi. So, anti-incumbency and unhappiness of Dalits and Patels are being discussed. Shah has set a target of 150 seats for Gujarat. At present, the BJP has 121 seats. After setting an increased target, the BJP has put pressure on the Congress. Getting 150 seats in the Assembly of 182 would mean a clean sweep.
In Karnataka, the BJP has set a target of 150 seats. Of the 225 seats in the State, the BJP has 44 and the Congress has 123. The JDS is on number 3 with 40 seats. Shah has increased the BJP’s target and put it at 150. With this confidence, the Congress and JDS will feel the pressure and this might be the reason why both parties could go for an alliance.
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