Indian Presidential election 2017: Will it be Gopalkrishna Gandhi vs NDA candidate?

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June 14, 2017

If the government seeks any suggestion from opposition leaders, the Left and the Congress are likely to propose the name of Gopal Krishna Gandhi.

Gopal Krishna Gandhi speaks during a book launch event in New Delhi.(PTI File Photo)

June 14, 2017

If the government seeks any suggestion from opposition leaders, the Left and the Congress are likely to propose the name of Gopal Krishna Gandhi.

Gopal Krishna Gandhi speaks during a book launch event in New Delhi.(PTI File Photo)

With the Election Commission issuing notification today for the July 17 presidential election, hectic parleys have started among the political parties to choose a candidate. While the ruling BJP-led NDA is yet to shortlist any name, Congress-led Opposition has already started feelers to its probable candidates.

One of the Opposition's shortlisted candidates is former governor Gopalkrishna Gandhi who is also the grandson of Mahatma Gandhi. He is a retired IAS officer and a diplomat. Despite choosing a 'Gandhi', the odds may not favour the Opposition. The process of filing nominations for the presidential election will continue till June 28. The result of the election, in case it is held, would be declared on July 20.

BJP'S MOVES

BJP president Amit Shah on June 9 constituted a three-member committee comprising Union ministers Rajnath Singh, Arun Jaitley and M Venkaiah Naidu for holding consultations with the NDA allies and the Opposition on the issue. Rajnath and Venkaiah met for the first time today. Jaitley was not present in the meeting as he was away.

Sources said the two leaders briefed Prime Minister Narendra Modi on the matter. The two leaders would meet NDA partners and also the Opposition parties in a bid to build consensus on a candidate's name. They will meet Congress president Sonia Gandhi and CPI(M) leader Sitaram Yechury on Friday to discuss the presidential candidate. The sources said NDA may declare the candidate's name on June 23.

OPPOSITION'S STRATEGY

On the other hand, the leaders of Opposition parties will hold their meeting later today in a bid to prepare a joint strategy. The Opposition's 10-member sub-group would meet for the first time after it was constituted recently.

The Opposition is likely to discuss a few names such as former Lok Sabha speaker Meira Kumar, JD(U) MP Sharad Yadav, NCP supremo Sharad Pawar and Gopalkrishna Gandhi. Among these probable candidates, Gandhi is the frontrunner. He has already been sounded about it and does not seem averse to running for the president's post.

CHATUR BANIA JIBE

The ruling BJP seems to have got a hint of the likely consensus being built in the Opposition for Gandhi's name. BJP also has conveyed to the Opposition that Gandhi would not be acceptable to it. Amit Shah courted a controversy when he used the term "bahut chatur bania" (a very clever trading caste) for Mahatma Gandhi in Raipur on June 9. He was referring to Mahatma Gandhi as a clever person who used Congress as a tool just to gain independence and wanted the party to be disbanded subsequently. Taking strong exception to Shah's comment, Congress has sought an apology from the BJP chief as well as Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

Congress alleged that it was an attempt by Shah to belittle Mahatma Gandhi. On the other hand, Shah has refused to oblige Congress. Shah's attempt to "belittle" Mahatma Gandhi at a time when president's election is round the corner and BJP cannot afford to antagonise the Opposition, particularly Congress. But Shah's comments on Mahatma Gandhi and Congress are evident of BJP's nonchalance towards dependability on the Opposition for the presidential election. Incidentally, PM Modi, Shah and Gandhi – all three hail from the same state of Gujarat.

ODDS IN FAVOUR OF NDA

If the Opposition sticks to fielding Gandhi as its candidate, in most likelihood BJP would come up with a candidate of its own. BJP's confidence oozes from NDA's comfortable position in terms of votes. Even if one of its allies, Shiv Sena, does not support it, NDA is hopeful of getting the backing of a couple of opposition parties such as Telangana Rashtra Samithi and YSR Congress.

For the last two presidential elections, Shiv Sena has been voting against the NDA candidate. In the last two elections when NDA was in the Opposition, it had fielded candidates of its own. It is very much possible that Congress-led Opposition may continue the tradition of election and nominate its candidate. A contest between a Gandhi and an NDA candidate is likely to make it worth watching out for.


Courtesy: India Today