It's official, Jaswant is NDA's Vice-Prez nominee

It's official, Jaswant is NDA's Vice-Prez nominee

The National Democratic Alliance (NDA) on Monday unanimously decided to support senior BJP leader Jaswant Singh as its candidate for the vice-President’s election against incumbent and United Progressive Alliance (UPA) nominee Hamid Ansari.

The NDA’s decision follows certain “anti-opposition” decisions Ansari took during his tenure as vice-president, including the fact that he had arbitrarily shut a debate in the Rajya Sabha on the Lokpal Bill.

In the less than an hour meeting held at NDA working president LK Advani’s house on Monday morning, the alliance partners, including the Janata Dal-United (JD-U) and the Shiv Sena, took the unanimous decision to support Singh.

Advani, after the meeting, announced that Singh would be the NDA candidate.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh called Advani and BJP president Nitin Gadkari to solicit support for Ansari on Saturday. “The prime minister called me about five minutes before announcing the UPA vice-presidential candidate. It was only like following a custom,” said the former deputy prime minister.

Advani said he conveyed to the prime minister NDA’s “reservations” and “disinclination” over Ansari’s name. He also said that the NDA would reach out to parties like the AIADMK and the Biju Janata Dal (BJD) to seek support for their candidate.  

The BJD and AIADMK are on the side of the NDA in the presidential poll, rekindling hope within the opposition that the two regional political parties will support the former union minister.

Initially, the BJP had approached the JD-U with the option of fielding their leader and NDA convener Sharad Yadav, but he was reluctant as his chances of winning the election are bleak.

“Sharad Yadav’s name had come up in the public domain as a possible candidate for vice-president. Sushma Swaraj had talked to him and requested him to consider it. But he said his nature does not permit as today he is engaged in active politics freely and this post will hamper it,” Advani told reporters.

The senior BJP leader also said that the NDA was open for talks with UPA ally Trinamool Congress Party. Trinamool party chief and West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee is opposed to Ansari’s candidature. Her party has proposed Gopalkrishna Gandhi and Krishna Bose to take on Ansari.

In August 2007, Ansari had defeated NDA nominee Najma Heptullah by securing 455 out of the 762 votes polled.

The United National Progressive Alliance candidate, Rasheed Masood, who is now with the Congress, came third in the race.

BJP sources said that it would not be easy for former army man-turned politician to turn the tide in his favour as the numbers were not in their favour. 

Singh, apparently, too was not very comfortable knowing about the tilt of balance in favour of his rival. When asked about Singh’s initial hesitation, Advani said, “Had he not agreed we would not have announced his name.” Meanwhile, Jaswant Singh has welcomed the announcement of his candidature. “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," he briefly stated.

Jaswant Singh, the Member of Parliament from Darjeeling, is the moderate face of the BJP.  He had to pay a price for his leanings when he was suspended from the party two years ago for praising Pakistan founder M A Jinnah in his book “Jinnah: India, Partition, Independence.”

The leader from Jodhpur,  born on January 3, 1938, was brought back to the party fold by president Nitin Gadkari but was not given any major charge.

Close to coalition

He was very close to former NDA prime minister A B Vajpayee, who used his services in different capacities of finance minister, external affairs minister and defence minister.  However, as minister, Singh is often criticised for airlifting terrorists in the same aircraft he took to fly to Kandahar to release them in exchange for passengers of a hijacked Air India.

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