DHAKA: The BJP-led NDA has named senior party leader and Former Foreign Minister Jaswant Singh as its vice-presidential candidate.
The decision came after a meeting of party leaders at the home of LK Advani to decide on its candidate that it would field against the UPA`s nominee for Vice President, Hamid Ansari.
Sources had earlier said that the alliance of opposition parties, including the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) was also chewing on the name of Janata Dal (United) leader Sharad Yadav as a potential candidate. Mr Yadav, though, was reportedly was not keen for the job.
The NDA is fielding a candidate despite Mr Ansari looking comfortable on numbers because it wants to record the fact that it does not favour a second term for the Vice President. The party is still upset with Mr Ansari for the way he conducted the Lokpal debate in an extended Winter session of Parliament late last year.
Mr Ansari`s candidacy was announced by the UPA on Saturday after a meeting of all its allies. All of them, save Mamata Banerjee, have pledged support to him as have parties like Mulayam Singh Yadav`s Samajwadi Party and Maywati`s BSP. Even without Ms Banerjee`s Trinamool Congress, which has said it is yet to decide, the Congress and its allies have 444 MPs, much more than the 396 votes they need to get Mr Ansari that second term as Vice President.
Ms Banerjee`s party had opposed Mr Ansari`s candidacy at the UPA meeting on Saturday, suggesting two other names, but sources say she might come around to supporting the Congress for the Vice Presidential election at least. Her close aide and Rail Minister Mr Mukul Roy, who attended the meeting said Ms Banerjee would decide. Sources have told NDTV that hectic back-channel talks are underway to get Ms Banerjee to come on board vis-a-vis Mr Ansari`s candidature. Ms Banerjee has resolutely refused to back Mr Mukherjee for President; three days before that election, she is yet to say who she supports.
Stacked against Mr Ansari right now are the votes of 236 MPs - those of the BJP-led NDA, without the Janata Dal(United), the AIADMK, the Shiv Sena and the BJD. The Shiv Sena is supporting Mr Mukherjee for the presidential elections but has said it will support the NDA candidate for vice-president.
After the UPA meeting on Saturday evening, the Prime Minister had phoned senior BJP leaders LK Advani and Sushma Swaraj to seek their support for Mr Ansari`s candidacy. The BJP declined, the Lokpal Bill debate still fresh on its mind.
In December last, the Lok Sabha had already voted on the Bill, but the ruling UPA was unlikely to win in the Rajya Sabha. The BJP and other parties had moved 200 amendments and they wanted the discussion and vote to take place even though time had run out. Mr Ansari`s decision to end proceedings sharp at midnight on the last day, without the anti-graft Bill being voted upon, allowed the government to escape the embarrassment of having a major proposal defeated. And sent the law into limbo again.
Elections for vice president are scheduled to be held on August 7. Elections for the next President of India will be held on Thursday, July 19. Results will be announced on Sunday, July 22.
BDST: 1238 HRS, JULY 16, 2012