BJP chief Amit Shah’s meeting with ally and Shiv Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray in Mumbai on Presidential elections generated an impasse today. Sena sources said Mr Shah had proposed that Prime Minister Narendra Modi be given the sole authority to pick a presidential candidate. Mr Thackeray, however, rejected the idea. The party, Sena sources said, was “not agreeable” to giving PM Modi the sole authority to decide on a presidential nominee.
A replacement for President Pranab Mukherjee has to be found before mid-July and Mr Shah is canvassing support for the NDA’s presidential candidate – a mission for which the BJP has also reached out to the opposition.
For Sena, the Presidential election is a contentious issue and the party has indicted that it might vote “independently”. Earlier, the Sena had also signaled its displeasure when it was suggested that PM Modi lead the NDA in the 2019 general elections. The proposal, floated by ally Ram Vilas Paswan, was opposed by Mr Thackeray, who had attended the NDA meeting in May
The hour-long meeting at Mr Thackeray’s house “Matoshree” today was attended by his son Aaditya Thackeray and Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis. Mr Shah had gone there accompanied by state BJP president Raosaheb Danve. n keeping with its role as the NDA’s in-house opposition, the Sena did not allow him to join the discussions. Mr Danve was recently caught on camera snapping at a farmer who had questioned him on the government’s handling of the farmers’ distress in the state – an issue in which the Sena is fighting the government tooth and nail.
The Sena had been rooting for Mohan Bhagwat – the chief of BJP’s ideological mentor Rashtraiya Swayamsevak Sangh – for the President’s post. While the BJP did not respond and Mr Bhagwat said he was disinclined to the job, the Sena last week floated another name: 91-year-old agricultural scientist MS Swaminathan, who is known as the father of Green Revolution.
In the last two presidential elections Shiv Sena had supported UPA candidates Pranab Mukherjee and Pratibha Patil.
A series of meetings between the government and various opposition leaders had taken place since Friday. The government had been represented by three senior ministers – Rajnath Singh, Arun Jaitley and Venkaiah Naidu. The leaders contacted included Congress chief Sonia Gandhi and CPM leader Sitaram Yechury.
The opposition has complained that the BJP has come without any names and the Congress said the government was seeking cooperation, not consensus. Mr Shah had dismissed the claims, saying had any name been cited, the opposition would have complained that the government has already made up its mind.