BJP considering dalit candidate for President?

Jharkhand governor Draupadi Murmu, who is a dalit tribal leader, may be the NDA's presidential candidate.

New Delhi: The BJP, which has been trying to consolidate its backward votebank, is considering nominating a dalit candidate in the forthcoming presidential election. In a recent meeting between the RSS and BJP, the Sangh Parivar apparently asked the BJP to consider the names of dalit or tribal leaders for the nation’s highest office.

Going by indications so far, Jharkhand governor Draupadi Murmu may be the NDA’s presidential candidate. The saffron camp’s thinking is that since Ms Murmu is a woman and a dalit tribal leader, the Opposition “might just find it difficult” to oppose her.

Ms Murmu, who hails from Odisha, was a minister of state with independent charge for commerce and transport during the BJP-BJD coalition government in the state.

It is learnt that with Ms Murmu’s name floating, the Biju Janata Dal has so far stayed away from Opposition parleys to select a non-NDA presidential candidate.

Another name doing the rounds in the saffron camp is that of backward leader Thawar Chand Gehlot, Union social justice minister. It may be recalled that BJP president Amit Shah had recently met top Sangh leaders, including RSS supremo Mohan Bhagwat, in Nagpur to discuss the presidential election. President Pranab Mukherjee’s term ends on July 25, so the presidential election will be held earlier that month.

With Mr Narendra Modi as Prime Minister, the RSS wants a saffron figure at Rashtrapati Bhavan. Sources said though Mr Amit Shah has talked of consulting the Opposition parties on the presidential candidate, neither the party nor the wider Sangh Parivar are in any mood to accomodate the Opposition’s preferences.

With the RSS and BJP showing no inclination to opt for a consensus candidate, a senior BJP leader said that a “contest could be on the cards”.

The BJP is “confident” that it has an edge over the Congress-led Opposition as far as the numbers are concerned. “We are falling short by nearly 25,000 votes and this can easily be bridged”, a senior BJP leader said. He said that given the scenario, the BJP “will need the support of one non-NDA party to win the presidential election”.

While the Sangh Parivar favours a backward candidate, a section of BJP leaders indicated that other top leaders like Lok Sabha Speaker Sumitra Mahajan and Union ministers Sushma Swaraj and M. Venkaiah Naidu “cannot be ruled out”.

As the BJP and RSS zero in on their candidate, the Opposition continues to struggle to come up with a name. While the Opposition had earlier floated the name of NCP supremo Sharad Pawar as its candidate, the Maratha strongman is not keen to join the race unless he is certain of victory.

In case the presidential election turns out to be more of a symbolic fight, the Opposition has decided it would field Mahatma Gandhi’s grandson Gopalkrishna Gandhi, a former diplomat and governor.

Opposition sources said while it was normal practice for the ruling party to approach the others with the name of a possible consensus candidate, if the BJP decides to play the waiting game till the last minute, the Opposition will go ahead and declare its candidate.

It may be recalled that 17 Opposition parties had held a meeting last week to decide on a common candidate, the discussion had focused more on the need to join forces and face a rising BJP on a common platform. The parties will again hold talks on the sidelines of DMK patriarch M. Karunanidhi’s birthday celebrations in Chennai on June 3 as well as in Patna in August at a rally being organised by RJD supremo Lalu Prasad Yadav.

Next Story