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Presidential Polls: NDA Has Majority – Will It Be Murmu or Swaraj?

Both names fit the Modi government’s ‘pro-women’ pitch. Who will make the cut?

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Presidential Polls: NDA Has Majority – Will It Be Murmu or Swaraj?

The upcoming Presidential elections have thrown up a number of interesting and consequential questions about Pranab Mukherjee’s successor, to be chosen in July.

  1. Will Prime Minister Narendra Modi pick the next President of India?
  2. Has the BJP-led NDA conquered Raisina Hill?
  3. Is the Opposition failing to work together efficiently to put up a joint candidate?
  4. Will the Opposition’s candidate fight a losing battle?

These questions gained momentum after a meeting between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and YSR Congress President Jagan Mohan Reddy last week. After the 10 May meeting, Reddy announced that his party would support the NDA’s presidential candidate.

The Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS) has also indicated support for the NDA candidate, with Lok Sabha MP Jitendra Reddy saying that the TRS has no problem engaging with the NDA on matters that prove beneficial to Telangana.

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NDA Has the Magic Number

The election of the new First Citizen of India will be held before Pranab Mukherjee’s term ends on 24 July. While the NDA government did not previously have the strength to win, with the support of the YSR Congress and TRS, the ball now appears to be in the NDA’s court.

(Photo: The Quint)

To win, the NDA needs 5,49,441. With the backing of the YSR Congress and the TRS, the NDA can clinch the magic number of 5,70,933 – (5,32,337 + 16,848 + 22,048) – ensuring an easy victory.

The Shiv Sena Factor

The Shiv Sena is believed to be the weak link in the NDA’s bridge to victory. The Sena’s loyalty could waver depending on the ‘competence’ of the Opposition candidate.

Shiv Sena voted for UPA candidate Pratibha Patil in 2007 and for Pranab Mukherjee in 2012. This time around, if the Opposition fields a candidate like NCP chief Sharad Pawar, then the ‘Marathi asmita’ will influence the Sena’s decision.

But the question that remains is this – how important is the Shiv Sena in the current configuration?

(Photo: The Quint)

It turns out, not very. If the Shiv Sena backs out, the NDA will fall short of 4,401 votes – a shortfall they can easily absorb.

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Who Are NDA’s Frontrunners?

Draupadi Murmu (L) and Sushma Swaraj (R). (Photo: The Quint)

While Lok Sabha Speaker Sumitra Mahajan and Manipur Governor Najma Heptullah appear to be the frontrunners for the NDA’s presidential nomination, sources say that Jharkhand Governor Draupadi Murmu and External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj are actually leading the race.

Both names fit the Modi government’s ‘pro-women’ pitch. However, Murmu, a tribal woman from Odisha, appears to be the favourite as she may be the right look for the BJP and the RSS’ tribal welfare agenda. 

Additionally, Murmu’s candidature is expected to garner the support of the Biju Janata Dal (32,892 votes) and the Jharkhand Mukti Morcha (5,116 votes).

On the other hand, while Swaraj’s ill-health has been a matter of concern, party sources say that this could be her strength too. Swaraj’s nomination is also expected to find favour with all NDA allies.

Is the Opposition Beating a Dead Horse?

Among the Opposition, the name of Gopalakrishna Gandhi is doing the rounds. Former diplomat and ex-governor of West Bengal, the youngest grandson of Mahatma Gandhi had earlier revealed that he had been approached in this regard. The Opposition feels that the Gandhi name will help unite parties like the AIADMK, the BJD, the AAP and the INLD.

Other names in contention include former Lok Sabha speaker Meira Kumar and JDU leader Sharad Yadav.

But this is all a moot point. Even if the Opposition manages to put up a united front for the presidential elections, their candidate has no shot at victory. These elections, however, may turn out to be a dry-run of the Opposition alliance for the 2019 Lok Sabha elections.

(This story was originally published in Quint Hindi. )

(At The Quint, we are answerable only to our audience. Play an active role in shaping our journalism by becoming a member. Because the truth is worth it.)

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