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Asian Tribune is published by E-LANKA MEDIA(PVT)Ltd. Vol. 20 No. 105

BJP decides to field Vice President Shekhawat as independent in Indian Presidential Election

By M Rama Rao - in New Delhi

New Delhi, 18 June, ( Pinning all its hopes on 'cross voting', the BJP led NDA on Monday decided to field Vice President Bhaironsingh Shekhawat as an independent in the June 19 Presidential election, projecting as his USP "his impeccable secular credentials".NDA statement said that the NDA had taken a 'formal', 'duly authorised' decision to back Shekhawat for the post of President as "a non-party and an independent candidate". NDA statement said that the NDA had taken a 'formal', 'duly authorised' decision to back Shekhawat for the post of President as "a non-party and an independent candidate".

But the decision and its announcement were preceded by some 'confusion.'

All the allies, notably, the Shiv Sena of Maharashtra were not on board the decision with the Sena leader Manohar Joshi telling the NDA conclave held at the Vajpayee residence on Krishna Menon Marg here that the Sena Pramukh would announce his party stand in Mumbai on Tuesday to coincide with the Sena Foundation Day.

There are also reports that the JD (U) has second thoughts on going along with the BJP decision on the Presidential candidate issue.

And with in the BJP ranks in Gujarat, Rajasthan, Maharashtra and Karnataka, a revolt is brewing against the leadership decision promoting the party headquarters here entertain fears of cross-voting from within the BJP itself.

Just an hour ahead of the NDA meeting, the BJP announced that there would be no press conference at Atal Bihari Vajpayee's residence which was the venue of the NDA discussions. The presser was slated initially for 12 noon. The cancellation was attributed to rain but the press conference was held abruptly without much ado around 1230.

Former Prime Minister Vajpayee, who is also the NDA chairman, read out a prepared statement in Hindi. He said Mr Shekhawat would enter the race as an Independent. Justifying the decision to field the vice President, the BJP senior said Mr. Shekhawat discharged his responsibilities as Vice-President and Rajya Sabha Chairman 'entirely beyond party affiliations' and with 'impeccable secular credentials'.

Mr Vajpayee exuded confidence that Mr Shekhawat's victory was 'definite.'

NDA convenor George Fernandes volunteered to read out the statement in English but as he started fumbling, Sushma Swaraj (BJP), who conducted the press meet, took upon herself that 'job' as well.

Statement Text: The statement said the NDA had taken a 'formal', 'duly authorised' decision to back Shekhawat for the post of President as "a non-party and an independent candidate".

It described Mr Shekhawat as a public figure of eminence, high repute, unmatched credentials, and noted that he has discharged his latest responsibilities as the country's Vice President and Chairman of the Rajya Sabha entirely beyond affiliations and with impeccable secular credentials. And said Mr Shekhawat is the 'most appropriate choice' as "he combines a lifetime's experience of dedicated public service with rare qualities of head and heart".

Top NDA leaders, including L K Advani, Rajnath Singh, Sharad Yadav, Nitish Kumar, Manohar Joshi and Sukhdev Singh Dhindsa attended the discussions of the alliance, which took place exactly a day after the Samajwadi Party poured cold water on any hope of its support to Mr Shekhawat and thus putting spokes in the strategy of winning the race with cross voting.

BJP leadership is also reconciled to the possibility of the so called Third Front putting up its own nominee. It is now banking on the Front giving its second preference votes to Mr Shekhawat which would be useful in case the margin between the two front runners is narrow as happened in 1969 at the time of Mr V. V. Giri's election as 'independent' President.

Numbers Trouble: NDA strategists frankly admit that they are placed hopelessly numbers wise in the Presidential election. If the Shiv Sena sticks to its core philosophy that rests on the Maratha pride, then our numbers dwindle further", party leaders said.

As of now, the NDA accounts for 3,54,689 votes while the UPA is far ahead with about 5.70 lakh votes, which is more than half of the total votes in the electoral college. The Third Front accounts for 1, 06,281 votes while others have 67,647 votes. So even if all these votes go to him, defeat stares at his face as Mr Bhaironsingh Shekhawat can only get to 4,60,970 votes.

-Asian Tribune-

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