NEW DELHI: Putting behind differences on the issue of Presidential poll candidate, BJP-led NDA today unanimously chose Jaswant Singh as its vice-presidential candidate against UPA nominee Hamid Ansari, who had earned the opposition’s ire during the Lokpal Bill debate in Rajya Sabha.
After a meeting of NDA partners here today, its Working Chairman L K Advani announced that Jaswant Singh has been chosen as the coalition’s vice-presidential candidate.
Advani said the NDA was opposing Ansari for his “conduct” in the Rajya Sabha during the Lokpal Bill debate when he had “abruptly” adjourned the House.
NDA will solicit support of parties like AIADMK, BJD and others for Singh, Advani said. He did not rule out talking to UPA ally TMC on the matter. TMC had proposed the names of Gopal Krishna Gandhi and Krishna Bose as possible candidates and is yet to clarify if it will vote for Ansari.
BJP tried to use the Vice-Presidential election as an opportunity to mend its ties with ally JD (U)- which has openly differed with the party on several issues including support to UPA Presidential candidate Pranab Mukherjee. It had reached out to JD (U) President Sharad Yadav to become NDA’s Vice-presidential candidate.
“Sharad Yadav’s name had come up in the public domain as a possible candidate for vice-president. Sushma Swaraj had talked to him day before yesterday and requested him to consider. But he said his nature does not permit as today he is engaged in active politics freely and this post will hamper it,” Advani said.
74-year-old Singh’s name then came up as a “unanimous” choice and all NDA partners, including Shiv Sena, agreed.
Shiv Sena is supporting Pranab Mukherjee in the presidential election but had agreed to support the NDA even before Singh’s name was announced. Shiv Sena MP Sanjay Raut was present in today’s NDA meeting.
Sources said though Singh was initially reluctant to contest as the UPA has the numbers and Ansari is set to get another term as Vice-President, he was convinced by the BJP leaders to enter the fray.
Asked about the issue, Advani said, “Had he (Jaswant Singh) not agreed we would not have announced his name.” Pointing towards Sharad Yadav, Advani said he had not agreed and so Singh was chosen.
Welcoming the announcement, Singh said it is a matter of great respect that NDA has unanimously chosen him as its candidate. “This is a big responsibility and also a challenge… We (NDA) are here as one force… I thank the NDA for giving me this responsibility.”
Singh, who is an MP from Darjeeling, was expelled from the BJP in August 2010 when he had praised Pakistan-founder M A Jinnah in his book- “Jinnah: India, Partition, Independence”. He was re-inducted into the party by BJP Chief Nitin Gadkari in 2011.
Advani told reporters that Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had called him and other top BJP leaders to solicit support for Ansari. “The PM called me about five minutes before announcing the UPA Vice-Presidential candidate. It was only like following a custom.”
Advani said he had conveyed to the Prime Minister that NDA has objection to Ansari’s name as he had abruptly adjourned the Rajya Sabha during the Lokpal debate. “I told him that we have our reservations and disinclination (towards Ansari’s candidature),” Advani said. NDA also said that its reservations on Ansari’s candidature are due to the manner in which the Women’s Reservation Bill was passed in the Rajya Sabha.
“Sharad Yadav pointed out in our meeting that when the Women’s Reservation Bill was to be passed, a large number of marshals were brought in to take out members opposed to the Bill. This is not acceptable to anybody. So we decided to oppose Ansari,” Advani said, adding the NDA had unanimously decided not to give a “walkover” to the UPA.
Sources said today’s NDA meeting began with a discussion on Yadav’s candidature. However, when he did not agree the name of Najma Heptullah was also proposed. She had met Sharad Yadav sometime back to garner support for her candidature.
But BJP leaders said she is not keen on contesting now as she had fought and lost against Ansari in 2007.
It was then that Jaswant Singh’s name was proposed by the BJP and accepted by all allies.
“Had he (Yadav) agreed to contest, the situation would have been different,” Advani told reporters after the meeting. -PTI