By Anjan Roy
The ruling NDA’s choice of the candidate for the presidential election must be conceded to be a political masterstroke. They have picked up an adivasi candidate now after choosing a scheduled caste candidate earlier. They have thus strayed away from the so-called upper caste elites and espoused the cause of the downtrodden. In a way, this is a conceptual breakthrough and a leap of imagination.
In contrast, the opposition’s choice look so very pedestrian and unimaginative. Obviously, no calculated thinking has gone behind this decision and it a desperate choice, when everyone else has simply turned down offers of candidacy.
Yashwant Sinha, one-time BJP minister of finance, is humdrum. He is upper caste, he is elite and forever he is seeking office. The man known to be always standing with an application in hand has been chosen as the joint Opposition candidate for the presidential election.
With that selection, BJP has virtually ensured that its candidate should get elevated to the high office. As such, BJP is supposed to have just about a couple of percentage points lower than simple majority of the electoral college votes. Droupadi Murmu, hailing from a remote backward district Odisha, has naturally got the support of the state chief minister, Naveen Patnaik.
BJD controls some 3% of the collegiate vote and with that support Ms Murmu sails in comfortably, with Yashwant Sinha still waiting for a high post. If sensible, Sinha should withdraw from the race and face a bad defeat at his advanced age.
But even before that choice, one has to remember that the opposition’s first choice, Sharad Pawar, proposed by Mamata Banerjee, had turned down the offer. While doing so, Pawar had mentioned in passing that he did not like fighting losing wars. And added, he has lots of politics still left in him.
That bitter truth about presidential election was probably known to Sharad Pawar even when the opposition representatives were deliberating.
The unravelling of the coalition government in Maharashtra was probably not unknown to Pawar. The decisive political earthquake exposing the faultiness in Shiv Sena had probably reached the Maratha strongman’s ears. For nothing in Maharashtra politics could happen without Sharad Pawar having a role.
Eknath Shinde’s departure from the Uddhav Thackeray outfit and raising of the rebel flag changes the entire situation. Significantly, Shinde’s entire demand is that Shiv Sena detaches itself from NCP and Congress and realigns with BJP.
In case, the Maharashtra government caves in, the presidential election will be a cake walk. Even otherwise, the BJP candidate would get support from the Maharashtra MPs and MLAs in large measure.
But that arithmetic apart, the choice of a Santhal lady from very disadvantaged situation as a candidate for the top spot would be a severe challenge for opposition unity.
Take, for instance, Mamata Banerjee, that high priestess for consensus candidate for the opposition. She will be on the horns of a dilemma over support. Bengal has a large population of advasis, a majority being Santhals. Only a couple of weeks back, she had gone to some tribal areas of the state and did a lot of dancing to the tunes of advise drums and music.
Now, in the name of opposition unity, a cartblanche to Trinamool legislators to oppose the candidature of a Santhal woman would be almost eating one’s own words. One has to see how TMC votes.
Yashwant Sinha, who was with Chandrasekhar and later with Atal Bihari Vajpayee in his government as finance minister, has forever been grumbling for not being chosen finance minister by Narendra Modi’s BJP. Ever since, he has been a strident critic of the Modi government for all its moves.
Later, seeking greener political pastures, Sinha had joined the Trinamool Congress when the party was billed as a catalyst for opposition coagulation against the Modi government. Along with several other loose canons, like Pawan Verma, and deserters from the Congress, Sinha had joined Trinamool with hopes of big posts.
Unfortunately for him and other political featherweights, Trinamool’s performance at the hustings had proved to be a non-starter. Trinamool Congress thereafter anointed the crown prince, Abhishek Banerjee, as the all-India general secretary of the party.
It appears Yashwant Sinha had been campaigning for his nomination ever since the common candidate plan was mooted. However, there was no mention of his name even by his benefactor, Mamata Banerjee. She had suggested all other names, but not his.
Seeing the last opportunity slipping out of his hand, a desperate Yashwant Sinha had proposed his name himself through his Twitter account. He had resigned from the Trinamool Congress in the morning to dedicate himself to a greater national cause in the evening.
Fighting for the presidential post was that great national cause and there being been no other preferred candidate, he appears to have been the last option. (IPA Service)