With a runaway success in the assembly elections in crucial Uttar Pradesh recently, Prime Minister Narendra Modi appears set to wrap up a win for the BJP nominee contesting the highest constitutional office of President after the incumbent and thirteenth Head of State Pranab Mukherjee completes his term on July 25.
Sensing the time constraints, the Congress and other non-BJP parties are desperately trying to forge a United Front (UF). The proposed UF is facing the usual hiccups in getting its act together. Congress president Sonia Gandhi has taken the lead contacting various leaders including RJD’s Lalu Prasad Yadav and Mulayam Singh Yadav of the SP.
However, in Lucknow Mulayam Singh Yadav’s younger brother Shivpal Yadav caught everyone by surprise announcing plans of splitting the SP and floating another outfit. Of course ‘Nejtaji’ as his elder brother Mulayam Singh Yadav is popularly known is to be installed its chief. On his part Netaji claimed he had not been consulted or informed of such a move. He is more inclined to see his son and former UP chief minister Akhilesh Yadav step down as the SP chief.
Even as there are calls for Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar’s ‘ghar vapsi’ to the NDA, NC’s Omar Abdullah and former J&K chief minister met Sonia Gandhi last week and discussed the proposed UF. Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi chipped in by contacting Akhilesh Yadav.
TMC supremo and West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee is keen to be part of the UF complaining nobody had approached her so far. Sonia Gandhi is also expected to meet BSP’s Mayawati. Odisha’s ruling BJD, the Telengana Rashtra Samiti and some others are also being consulted in evolving the UF.
Lalu is staring at problems with the Supreme Court ordering him to face trial in all the four fodder scam cases which can cast its shadow in knitting the UF. Such Fronts have been mooted in the past before assembly polls but has hardly been successful with Bihar being an exception.
This is a huge wake up call for the leaders of the proposed UF whose performance in the assembly elections over the last two-and-a-half years since Narendra Modi became Prime Minister in May 2014 has been dismal barring the AAP’s mind boggling win in Delhi and the saffron brigade falling by the wayside in Bihar, thanks to the ‘mahagatbandhan’ in 2015.
Leaders have welcomed Sonia Gandhi’s return to active politics after having taken a back seat for some time. Interestingly, CPM leader Sitaram Yechury has already clarified that the Left’s antipathy towards Trinamool Congress would not be a hurdle in the quest for a larger unity.
Akhilesh Yadav has also made it clear that the SP has no objection to rival BSP’s inclusion in the front. The aim is to create a national alternative to the BJP in the run up to the next general elections barely two years away in 2019.
The non-BJP Leaders realise they will have to be flexible. Some of them recalled when the National Front was formed, the government was headed first by H D Deve Gowda and later by I K Gujral to keep the BJP at bay. Nevertheless, the body language of all these leaders is the least convincing in the prevailing circumstances of a Modi phenomenon.
In achieving the objective of having one of the Lotus party’s stalwart installed in the erstwhile Viceregal Lodge for the first time on the Raisina Hill, the BJP-led NDA will require the backing of some regional parties like the ruling AIADMK in Tamil Nadu among others for a clear win in the electoral college.
With talk of his new residence in the national capital getting ready, the Congress might like Mukherjee to be given a second term. Members of the UF could prefer a nominee from their ranks to contest for the office of President though their chances of winning is virtually ruled out.
Mukherjee has been described as a ‘copy book’ President who remained steadfast in preserving and protecting the Constitution.
The country’s first President Rajendra Prasad is the only person who has served two terms in Rashtrapati Bhawan. The previous NDA government headed by BJP stalwart Atal Bihari Vajpayee did spring a surprise when it zeroed in on missile man A P J Abdul Kalam for the office of President.
In today’s polarised society with extreme positions acquiring prominence and politics mirroring the same, the new President has to play the role of the next conscience keeper. With growing incidents of intolerance from different parts of the country, the new Head of State will have to prove the government’s commitment to pluralism, inclusiveness and independence of institutions.
THK: Free Press Journal