NEW DELHI, June 27: Amidst show of strength by the combined opposition, its candidate for the presidential elections Yashwant Sinha filed his nomination papers for the July 18 elections for the top office in the country on Monday.
Sinha, a former bureaucrat who later joined politics and became the union finance and external affairs minister in the Atal Bihari Vajpayee cabinet, was flanked by the veteran politician and the Nationalist Congress Party chief Sharad Pawar and the former Congress president Rahul Gandhi when he submitted four sets of nominations to the Rajya Sabha Secretary General PC Mody, who is the returning officer for the Presidential election.
Addressing the media later, Rahul Gandhi said all opposition parties were united in supporting Sinha’s candidature for the top constitutional post. “Of course, we support the individual, but the real fight is between two ideologies. One is the ideology of RSS, that of anger, hatred, and the other of compassion of all the opposition parties who are standing together,” Gandhi said. Echoing the sentiment, Sinha called the Presidential poll “a battle between the ideology of absolute power and that of freedom”.
Samajwadi Party chief Akhilesh Yadav, Trinamool Congress leader Abhishek Banerjee and Saugata Roy, Farooq Abdullah from the Jammu & Kashmir National Conference, RLD’s Jayant Sinha, CPI(M)’s Sitaram Yechury, DMK’s A Raja, CPI’s D Raja, and Telangana Minister and TRS leader KT Rama Rao were among the opposition leaders present at the Parliament house when the 84-year-old Sinha filed his nomination as the consensus candidate from 14 opposition parties.
Rashtriya Janata Dal’s Misa Bharti, Revolutionary Socialist Party’s NK Premchandran and Indian Union Muslim League’s Mohammed Bashir were also present. However, two prominent opposition parties — Aam Aadmi Party and Jharkhand Mukti Morcha (JMM)– didn’t send their representatives for the nomination. Shiv Sena representatives were also not present as they are currently firefighting internal crises in Maharashtra. The JMM is yet to decide on who to support—Sinha or the ruling National Democratic Alliance’s (NDA) candidate Droupadi Murmu, a tribal leader. Since the JMM itself is a party of the tribals, it is finding it difficult to ignore a tribal candidate of the BJP for the sake of unity of the non-BJP opposition parties.
Two big non-BJP parties — Mayawati’s Bahujan Samaj Party and Odisha chief minister Naveen Patnaik’s Biju Janata Dal (BJD)—have already extended support to the NDA candidate for the post Droupadi Murmu, the tribal leader.
Sinha was decided as the joint candidate for the presidential election on June 21 at a meeting of several opposition leaders. In a last-minute boost to Sinha, the K Chandrashekhar Rao-led Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS) this morning announced its support despite earlier reservations on the method of choosing the candidate and sharing a platform with rival Congress, and senior party leader and Telangana minister K T Rama Rao was also present during the filing of the nomination.
The numbers are stacked heavily against Sinha and the NDA candidate Murmu is most likely to win. The ruling party on its own has about 49% of the Electoral College and to elect the President, one needs to cross the 50% mark. With the support of some of the non-BJP parties, including BSP and BJD, Murmu is almost certain to have an easy passage to the Rashtrapati Bhavan. However, Monday’s show of strength is being seen as a significant political move from the opposition which is trying to project a united front against the BJP.
Sinha has said a “rubber stamp” President would not do and that he would be “more constitutional” if elected as President than Droupadi Murmu. He has also said while they do not have any “personal fight” with Ms Murmu, the election was “a battle of issues to save the Constitution of India”.
He said he would also reach out to his old BJP colleagues for support in the election. On his former party, he said the BJP he was part of had internal democracy, and “the current BJP lacks it.”
Murmu has filed her papers last week.