Presidential Election 2017: There is a marked difference in the way BJP and Congress have approached the Presidential election in India over the years. While the BJP has shown a tendency to approach Opposition parties to get support before announcing the name of its candidate, the Congress has sought Opposition support only after announcing its pick for the post. The Congress did this in 2007 as well as 2012, according to The Indian Express.
In 2007, the Congress had sought Opposition support after announcing the name of Pratibha Patil to replace then President APJ Abdul Kalam. Similarly in 2012, the Congress announced the name of Pranab Mukherjee to succeed President Patil even without consulting the Left parties, says the report.
In contrast, the BJP-led NDA government had tried to build a consensus on its candidate, APJ Abdul Kalam, before announcing his name in 2002. In 2017, the BJP looks to be repeating the same even as the saffron party is in a comfortable position to get its candidate elected as the successor to President Mukherjee. Despite several names doing the rounds, the BJP has maintained a secrecy on the name of its candidate. The probable names from the NDA camp include BJP leader and External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj, Lok Sabha Speaker Sumitra Mahajan, Jharkhand Governor Draupadi Murmu, former deputy Lok Sabha Speaker Kariya Munda,Union Social Justice Minister Thawar Chand Gehlot and ‘Metro Man’ E Sreedharan.
On Friday, Union ministers Rajnath Singh and M Venkaiah Naidu met Congress President Sonia Gandhi to discuss the upcoming Presidential poll as part of the ruling BJP’s outreach to build a consensus on its official nominee. The BJP leaders arrived at Gandhi’s 10 Janpath residence to help evolve an agreement on the crucial election. PTI reported that the meeting lasted for around 30 minutes. However, it was not immediately known as to what transpired at the meeting.
In 2002, then PM Atal Bihari Vajpayee had invited Congress President Sonia Gandhi and other Congress leaders to his residence to convey the BJP’s decision to field Kalam. After the meeting, the Congress supported Kalam’s election. However, in 2007, Congress called Vajpayee only after announcing Patil’s name. Similarly in 2012, IE reports that the UPA didn’t consult the BJP, even as Mukherjee enjoyed warm relations with leaders across all political parties.
For the BJP, which is again trying to build a consensus on its candidate for the Presidential Election 2017, it may be like a deja vu. However, there is a slight difference. While in 2002, Vajpayee had invited top Congress leaders to his residence to build a consensus on Kalam, such meeting may not been possible in 2017. With the kind of bitter relations an apparently united Opposition and the ruling party share today, it is unlikely that PM Narendra Modi would invite the Opposition leaders to his residence, or the latter would even accept such an invitation.