NEW DELHI: With the election of the next President of India finally under way, all eyes are on the BJP, which is known for springing surprises, on who will be the ruling NDA’s presidential candidate.
While the names of a prominent Muslim leader, Kerala governor Arif Mohammad Khan, tribal face and former Jharkhand governor Draupadi Murmu and Telangana governor Tamilisai Soundararajan, a key Nadar leader from the South, are doing the rounds in political circles as possible candidates, the BJP’s nominee for the highest constitutional post will also be selected keeping in mind the 2024 Lok Sabha polls, besides the political arithmetic.
While the ruling NDA has close to 50 per cent of the votes in the electoral college, its key ally JD(U) is yet to make its stand clear on which side it will be supporting this time. On the last two occasions, the JD(U) had backed the UPA candidate. While the BJP and its allies in the NDA have fewer MLAs than they had in the 2017 presidential polls, their number of MPs have gone up since.
The BJP is also hopeful of non-NDA, non-UPA parties like the ruling YSRCP in Andhra Pradesh and Naveen Patnaik-led Biju Janata Dal in Odisha along with the AIADMK in Tamil Nadu supporting its candidate.
With the Election Commission announcing the schedule for the presidential election on Thursday, BJP sources said its senior leaders will reach out to all parties, including the Opposition, in order to evolve a consensus on the choice for Rashtrapati Bhavan.
According to latest official figures, the BJP on its own has 392 MPs, excluding four nominated Rajya Sabha members who cannot vote, out of the current strength of 772 members from both Houses, giving it a clear majority. Though there are three vacancies in the Lok Sabha and 13 in the Rajya Sabha as of now, the final tally is unlikely to be drastically changed when they are filled before the presidential polls.
The BJP’s numerical advantage in Parliament, which has almost half of the votes in the electoral college which also comprises all elected MLAs, is further enhanced when the strength of its allies like the JD(U), which has 21 MPs in all, the Rashtriya Lok Janshakti Party, Apna Dal and some others from the north-eastern states are added.