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BJP gears up for presidential election, invites allies for talks

LiveMint logoLiveMint 09-04-2017 Gyan Varma

New Delhi: Prime Minister Narendra Modi has invited all the senior leaders of the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) to dinner on Monday in a move linked to the presidential and vice-presidential election due later this year.

Although the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is yet to give a clear agenda, senior NDA leaders believe the dinner diplomacy is the first step towards consensus building for the election of the president due in July and vice-president in August.

“There is no clear agenda for the meeting, Prime Minister has only invited senior leaders of NDA for dinner. We believe that this is the first step to discuss President and vice-president elections. So far, there has been no discussion on the issue because the budget session was going on. Since the budget session will end in a few days, the government it seems is starting consultations for President and vice-president candidates,” said a senior NDA leader.

Among top leaders who are expected at the dinner are Andhra Pradesh chief minister and Telugu Desam Party (TDP) chief N. Chandrababu Naidu and former chief minister of Punjab and Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) chief Parkash Singh Badal. The latter’s son, former deputy chief minister of Punjab Sukhbir Singh Badal, is also expected to attend.

“It is likely that Shiv Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray will be present in Delhi for the dinner. It is for the BJP leadership to spell out the agenda of the meeting. BJP is the senior partner of the NDA and they will have to take the initiative to start discussion on President and vice-president elections,” said a senior leader of Shiv Sena.

The total strength of the electoral college that elects the president is 10,98,882 votes and the BJP-led NDA needs at least 5,49,442 value of votes (one more than the half-way mark) to get its choice of president elected. However, according to the math done by BJP leaders, the problem for the NDA is that at present its total strength is around 5.32 lakh vote value, which is 17,500 vote value short of the half-way mark. The BJP leadership needs to keep the NDA together for the president and vice-president elections to get its candidates elected.

Modi’s invite is largely seen as an attempt to reach out to members of the NDA before the elections, mainly because both the TDP and Shiv Sena are annoyed with the Union government. The TDP leadership is upset because a demand by the Andhra Pradesh government for farm loan waiver has not been accepted by the Union government.

Similarly, the Shiv Sena along with leaders of the opposition parties is demanding farm loan waiver in Maharashtra—a contentious issue between Shiv Sena and its alliance partner the BJP. “BJP leaders have promised farm loan waiver in different states, we want a similar farm loan waiver for the farmers of Andhra Pradesh,” said a senior TDP leader.

Political analysts feel the dinner signals Modi’s attempt to pacify these big NDA partners.

“There is a clear shift in BJP strategy because the party has focussed on the promotion of BJP rather than NDA. Inviting senior NDA leaders is an acknowledgement that BJP needs its NDA alliance partners and the head of BJP and the government is making that effort for his party before the President and vice-president elections,” said Abhay Kumar Dubey, a New Delhi-based political analyst associated with the Centre for Study of Developing Societies.

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