Senior BJP leader Jaswant Singh is greeted by LK Advanai and other NDA leaders after he was announced as their vice-presidential candidate in New Delhi.
Senior BJP leader Jaswant Singh was today nominated as NDA candidate for the August 7 Vice Presidential election that will see a direct contest between him and incumbent Hamid Ansari.
The BJP-led opposition coalition, which was split over the Presidential poll with allies JD(U) and Shiv Sena breaking ranks, today unanimously named 74-year-old Singh as its candidate.
As things stand, Ansari has a definite edge with the pledged support of at least 438 votes in an electoral college of 790 MPs, much above the required number of 396.
Singh, former Finance and External Affairs Minister, has the committed support of 186 votes in the electoral college which comprises 545 members of Lok Sabha and 245 members of Rajya Sabha.
NDA decided to field Singh at a meeting which was attended by JD(U) Chief Sharad Yadav, who had earlier skipped such a meeting to decide the candidate for President's post.
"Sharad Yadav's name had come up in the public domain as a possible candidate for Vice President. Sushma Swaraj had talked to him day before yesterday and requested him to consider. But he said his nature does not permit as today he is engaged in active politics freely and this post will hamper it," L K Advani, NDA Working President, told reporters here.
"We have decided not to give them (Congress-led UPA) a walkover... We have unanimously decided that Jaswant Singh will be the NDA candidate in the Vice Presidential poll," he said.
Ansari, who was named as the UPA candidate last week, is set to create history by becoming only the second Indian after S Radhakrishnan to get two consecutive terms as Vice President.
Except for Trinamool Congress with 28 MPs, all the constituents of UPA are solidly behind Ansari. Trinamool is yet to make up its mind.
Ansari also has the support of UPA's outside supporters Samajwadi Party and BSP besides CPI(M) and Forward Bloc.
Refusing to concede that he was fighting a losing battle, Singh said, "I don't reject the importance of numbers...(But) wait and watch... It is not simply a game of arithmetic."
There are 125 MPs, including 10 nominated members, of different parties who are yet to announce their preference.
Even if all these MPs back the NDA nominee, Singh can muster only around 300 votes, still falling short of the requisite number.
Parties which have pledged support for Ansari are: Congress (278), BSP (36), SP (31), CPM (27), DMK (25), NCP (16), RLD (5), RJD (5), NC (5) and others which include Forward Bloc, Muslim League, AIMIM, AIUDF, Kerala Congress (Mani), VKC, BVA, NPF, SDF and Swabhiman Paksha.
For Singh, BJP has 163 MPs, JD-U 29, Shiv Sena 15, SAD 7 and others like JMM three and Haryana Janhit Party one.
BJD with 21 MPs and AIADMK with 14 MPs, which are with NDA in supporting P A Sangma in the Presidential poll, have not revealed their stand so far.
"The decision on the Vice President's post will be taken after consultation with senior leaders and others in BJD," party chief Naveen Patnaik said in Bhubaneshwar.
RSP with two MPs has decided to abstain from voting.
Meanwhile, CPI(M) and Forward Bloc declared their support for Ansari. CPI will take a decision on the issue on Wednesday at a meeting of its Central Secretariat, D Raja, CPI National Secretary, said.
Advani said the NDA was opposing Ansari for his "conduct" in the Rajya Sabha during the Lokpal Bill debate when he had abruptly adjourned the House.
The BJP leader said he had conveyed this to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh when the latter called him to seek support for Ansari. "I told him that we have our reservations and disinclination (towards Ansari's candidature)," Advani said.
NDA also said that its reservations on Ansari's candidature are due to the manner in which the Women's Reservation Bill was passed in the Rajya Sabha.
"Sharad Yadav pointed out in our meeting that when the Women's Reservation Bill was to be passed, a large number of marshals were brought in to take out members opposed to the Bill. This is not acceptable to anybody. So we decided to oppose Ansari," Advani said, adding the NDA had unanimously decided not to give a "walkover" to the UPA.
Singh said he would reach out to the non-NDA parties including UPA partner Trinamool Congress for their support.
"I will talk to all non-NDA parties for support. I will talk to Mamata Banerjee also," he said.
On both Banerjee and Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Jayalalitha being 'non-committal' on the Vice Presidential election, he said, "I will surely talk to both of them."
BJP has not only got JD(U) on its side, even the Shiv Sena which is supporting Pranab Mukherjee in the Presidential election, has agreed to support Singh. Shiv Sena MP Sanjay Raut was present in today's NDA meeting.
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