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A spanner in the works

A spanner in the works
The election of vice-president may not be as smooth as it appeared initially. The United Progressive Alliance (UPA) ally, Mamata Banerjee, has again put the spanner in wheel. She is against a second term to the present incumbent, Hamid Ansari, as desired by the Congress. The Trinamool Congress supremo wants Gandhiji’s grandson, Gopal Krishna Gandhi, to be the vice-presidential nominee.

When Prime Minister Manmohan called the West Bengal chief minister to elicit her support for Hamid Ansari for the second term, she was not categorically forthcoming. Sources say her representative Mukul Roy would propose the name of Gandhi and oppose the choice of Ansari. In the event of Gandhi not finding favour, she has in mind name of Krishna Bose, former MP from her party and niece of Netaji Subhash Bose.

The Communist Party of India (Marxist) is also not clear on its choice for the vice-presidential candidate even though last time it had backed Ansari. The Marxist leader, Prakash Karat, had told the prime minister that his party would like to have a person who does not belong to the Congress. At the same time, he did not make it clear whether he would support Ansari, a former diplomat, or not. The present vice-president has never been a member of the Congress party; nor did he have any link with Sonia Gandhi’s party. In no case, the Marxists will support either of Banerjee’s candidate – Gandhi or Bose. Indications are that CPI(M) may finally support Ansari, who does not belong to Congress and is friendly toward Marxists. After all, Ansari was sponsored by the Left party in last vice-presidential election. The CPI(M) may also come out in support of Ansari.

With the Samajwadi Party, Mayawati’s Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP), Janata Dal (United), Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD), Janata Dal (Secular), Lok Janshakti Party and other parties extending support to Ansari, Banerjee is again likely to be isolated as she is in the coming presidential candidate.

On the other hand, the main opposition, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), is likely to back Gandhi or Bose, if Banerjee manages enough numbers in favour of either of her candidate. Indicating that the BJP is keen to back Trinamool’s candidate, the party sources said that the BJP’s top brass is expected to meet soon to discuss the issue.

Nitish Kumar-led JD(U) cannot afford to oppose Ansari, fearing that this would be an advantage for the RJD Chief Lalu Yadav. He would exploit the situation and project Nitish as anti-Muslim. So is the position with Mulayam Singh and Mayawati. Both do not want to be portrayed as anti-Muslims.  

Though names of senior BJP leader, Jaswant Singh and Shiv Sena leader, Manohar Joshi are doing the rounds as National Democratic Alliance's (NDA) likely candidates, the main opposition  do not have required numbers to get its candidate elected.

Meanwhile, Shiv Sena, which broke the ranks with the NDA and supported UPA’s presidential candidate, Pranab Mukherjee, has now assured the BJP that it is with the NDA in the vice-presidential election.

Banerjee is sore that the prime minister without consulting her, called Karat, seeking Marxists support for Ansari. Describing the event as 'disgraceful', she asked Railway minister, Mukul Roy, to attend the UPA meeting convened by the prime minister and propose the names of Gandhi and Bose for the coming vice-presidential election.

The process of political alignment has begun with the Trinamool Congress, led by Banerjee, getting isolated in the UPA, while Janata Dal(U), led by Kumar, coming closer to the Congress. Even the Left parties may extend support to Sonia Gandhi-led dispensation to check the BJP and Banerjee in due course.

The Congress initiative to back Ansari for a second term after refusing support to A P J Abdul Kalam for the second term could send mixed signals to political parties. Congress managers are confident that the UPA minus the Trinamool Congress would remain intact and it will get support from the SP, BSP, JD(U), RJD, JD(S) and other smaller parties.

In spite of widening differences with Banerjee, the UPA is unwilling to offend the Trinamool supremo before presidential and vice-presidential elections. With that end in view, the union cabinet deferred a decision on amending the Forward Contracts Regulation Act. The proposed changes are designed to make the rapidly expanding commodities market more transparent and secure. The Trinamool Congress has objected to the proposal, saying it would encourage speculation to the detriment of consumers and producers.

Although the changes cleared by the standing committee were on the agenda, the cabinet put off a discussion to avert any confrontation with Banerjee when she is already smarting from her failure to thwart Mukherjee from being selected as the UPA nominee for 19 July presidential election.

History will be made in the event of election of Ansari for the second consecutive term. Only Radhakrishan got two terms as vice-president. This may be because  Rajendra Prasad was also elected the president for two successive terms. If Ansari is re-elected for the second term it would not be because the president too got the second tenure but for political considerations.
Harihar Swarup

Harihar Swarup

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