By Anil Anand
The outcome of Assembly elections to Uttar Pradesh has dramatically changed political complexion of the country from Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s point of view. It is not to say that similar results favourable to BJP in Uttrakhand and Manipur are less significant.
While the resounding victories of the BJP in this round of elections has definitely sent positive vibes in the context of 2019 general elections, the one significant change in complexion is in regard to the Presidential election due within six months time. The impressive victory in UP is significant to Modi and his party in more than one ways in this context.
Three hundred and twenty five seats in a House of four hundred and three. It has infused more confidence in BJP in terms of ensuring election of its own nominee (read Sangh Parivar) as the next President of India.
The win in UP is especially significant because UP Assembly members carry the maximum value of votes in a presidential election as the calculation is based on population and corresponding strength of the Assembly. The fact remains that UP is the most populous state of India and biggest Assembly in terms of number of seats.
Surely Prime Minister Modi would be in a different frame of mind when he sits with his strategists across the table to identify Presidential candidate and ensure his/her victory. The Uttar Pradesh has made him self-reliant and brightened chances as never before for a Sangh Parivar nominee to make it to the portals of Rashtrapati Bhawan perched atop Raisina Hills.
The BJP is the dominant partner in the NDA alliance both at the Centre and in UP and the results of latest round of Assembly elections have almost erased chances of any room for arm twisting which other allies could have done. The only fickle chance of an ally flexing muscles is the Shiv Sena which would certainly try and impose their choice of a candidate even from among the BJP/Sangh Parivar probables.
The UP-Uttrakhand-Manipur outcome has not only diminished the bargaining power of the combined opposition which they could have exercised in arriving at a unanimity had the BJP not registered such fabulous victories. It has also in many ways further pushed to the corner the saffron party’s allies within the NDA.
The President of India is elected by an electoral college that is formed by 776 parliamentarians and 4,120 legislators. The total strength of the Electoral College is 10, 98, 882 votes and the halfway mark is 5, 49, 442 votes.
It is not that the BJP-led NDA has the full strength to ensure victory of its presidential nominee on its own. The NDA as the arithmetic stands at this juncture is now short only by about 25,000 votes. This gap can be filled up by its friendly parties such as Biju Janata Dal and AIADMK. And if any of these parties try to play a spoiler, the BJP can fall back upon on TRS and YSRCP in Telengana and Andhra Pradesh respectively.
The UP election results have certainly spoiled the chances of a real dark-horse emerging from oblivion and making it to Raisina Hills as a unanimous choice or a consensus candidate of the entire political spectrum. So, one thing is clear that there would be no Dr APJ Abdul Kalam in the making this time around.
The theory of dark-horses would still be on play but in a different context. A more powerful Narendra Modi-Amit Shah duo and the emergence of a new powerful political character in UP chief minister Yogi Adityanath could per se force the theory of dark-horses into play for selection of a candidate from within BJP or Sangh Parivar as a whole.
The BJP has governments in states such as Gujarat, Rajasthan, Haryana, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Assam and Arunachal Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh and Uttrakhand. It has alliance dispensations in others states like Jammu and Kashmir, Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh, Nagaland, Sikkim, Manipur, Goa. A strong presence in these states coupled with a majority government at the Centre puts BJP in a commanding position.
Although Yogi Adityanath has just begun his innings as UP chief minister in the backdrop of a vital role played by him in polarizing the Hindu voters behind BJP and ultimately ensuring a fascinating victory, his body language suggests that he is his own man. He may ultimately accept Modi-Shah’s choice of Presidential candidate but it seems he would certainly throw his weight around as a futuristic strategy.
As a much clear picture has now emerged with latest electoral victories making Modi much stronger it is certain that he would not so easily budge before any pressure either from RSS headquarters in Nagpur or within the BJP. The question arises would he ultimately look into the claim of veterans such as LK Advani and Murli Manohar Joshi to make it to the top.
Former Deputy Prime Minister Advani has been instrumental in Modi’s political growth and protecting him at a crucial juncture when the then Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee was ready to act against him after infamous Gujarat riots. On the face of it Advani’s candidature deserves a favourable look by his one-time protégé Modi but will the latter really do it. There are no easy answers.
Apart from Advani, a much favoured name among the mainline politicians is Union Minister for Urban Development/Information and Broadcasting M Veniakaih Naidu. Even after he left the coveted Parliamentary Affairs portfolio Naidu has not stopped proactively defending the government’s policies and plans.
From among the RSS camp there is likelihood of BJP’s national General Secretary (organization) Ram Lal becoming the Presidential nominee of the BJP-led coalition. Lal has been closely associated with Modi much before 2014 Lok Sabha elections in handling the organizational matters and has played a stellar role.
Another name belonging to the same category is that of another RSS top person attached to the BJP Om Mathur. Incidentally, he was the party in charge in Uttar Pradesh and is credited with not only strengthening the organization but also ensuring greater coordination among various wings of the Sangh Parivar.
The chances of Modi-Shah duo pulling s surprise cannot be ruled out. If certain BJP quarters are to be believed then Gujarat Governor Prof OP Kohli could turn to be the real dark horse. The former Delhi BJP president is close both to Modi and RSS. His USP is his strong Sangh credentials and above all maintaining a low profile that fits into Modi’s scheme of things.