Wednesday, June 20, 2012

BJP sees red as Thackeray, Nitish shoot from the hip, JD (U) expects Pranab to play fair in post-poll 2014

Part of this report has appeared in the June 20, 2012 Mumbai edition of the DNA

New Delhi: BJP, the main opposiiton party, is exeriencing some moments of acute embarrassment. First came the salvo of Shiva Sena supremo Bal Thackeray. Sena, a key ally in the NDA and in Maharashtra, has come out openly and strongly in favour of UPA presidential nominee Pranab Mukherjee. Senior Thackeray was all praise for Mukherjee.

The other attack came from a surprising quarter. Another key ally, Janata Dal (United)'s Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar asserted that the BJP's should declare its prime ministerial candidate should be secular. Kumar was seconded by his deputy chief minister and state Bjp leader Sushil Modi who said that BJP's prime ministerial candidate should be a liberal like Atal Bihari Vajpayee, who is acceptable to all.

There is but a tenuous connection between the presidential election in July and the Lok Sabha election in 2014. The BJP was hoping that it would gear up for the 2014 election by rallying forces for the presidential poll. The party leadership was keen to send a clear message on opposition unity through its positioning on the presidential candidate. But the strategy now lies in total ruin.

The core commitee of the party, including president Nitin Gadkari, senior leader L.K.Advani, leadser of opposiiton in Lok Sabha Sushma Swaraj and leadser of opposition in Rajya Sabha Arun Jaitley had met at Gadkari's house on Monday night. The meeting remained inclonclusive.

A senior JD (U) member of Rajya Sabha Shivanand Tiwari said that the country needs a man who knows the Constitution and respects conventions in the post-poll situation in 2014 and there can be
no better person around who fits the bill than Mukherjee. He said that in the situation that is likely to arise in 2014, Mukherjee would be expected to take an impartial and constituional view of things. It is interesting that the JD )U), and probably other opposiiton parties as well, seem to trust Mukherjee's fair mindedness and they do not think that he would be a prtisan president who would favour the Congress.

He argued that it is a known fact that Congress president Sonia Gandhi chose Mukherjee with great reluctance. Why should she get the credit for choosing him, he asked. The opposition too must join in support of Mukherjee and make him a consensus candidate as he would then represent the whole political class. He said that his party's position was articulated at the NDA meeting on Sunday.

The BJP may have a tough time in convincing its NDA partners even about the candidature of former Lok Sabha speaker P.A.Sangma in case the party choosed to back him. The BJPD and the AIADMK have already endorsed him. Even in the case of Sangma, the BJP would be supporitng him, if iot choosed to do so, only reluctantly. The BJP top brass did not show any enthusiasm for Sangma right from the day he threw his hat in the presidential ring.

On the issue of Nitish Kumar statement on a secular prime minister, Tiwari said that the Bihar chief minister has not said anything unusual. “What is wrong in demanding for a secular prime minister? Do you want him to say that he prefers a communal prime minister?” he asked. The Constitution is secular, he reminded.

The split in the NDA is now wide open. Tiwari said that this was confined to the presidential election and did not mean that the NDA would not come together for the 2104 Lok Sabha election. The BJP it seems is unable to untangle the presidential poll from opposition unity in the run up to the 2014 parliamentary poll. The main opposition party has tied itself up in knots. The NDA partners see the future scenario with a clear eye.

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