Gopalkrishna Gandhi is opposition’s pick for vice-president
New Delhi: The Congress and 17 other opposition parties on Tuesday named former West Bengal governor Gopalkrishna Gandhi as their vice-presidential candidate.
“The 18 opposition parties have unanimously agreed to field Gopalkrishna Gandhi as their joint candidate for the vice-presidential election. We spoke to him. He has agreed to be the joint opposition candidate,” Congress president Sonia Gandhi told reporters after the meeting.
A retired civil servant from the Indian Administrative Service and diplomat, he is the grandson of Mahatma Gandhi.
The credentials notwithstanding, the odds are stacked against Gandhi pulling off an upset. This is because the election of the vice-president, unlike that of the President of India, is based on the combined voting strength of the Rajya Sabha and Lok Sabha. Here the math overwhelmingly favours the National Democratic Alliance (NDA).
The total electoral college for the vice-presidential polls is 790, which includes members of both houses of Parliament. There are 233 members along with 12 nominated members in the Rajya Sabha and 543 members along with two nominated members in the Lok Sabha who are eligible to vote.
At present the NDA accounts for nearly two-thirds of the electoral college votes, which effectively means Gandhi will be merely going through the motions. Instead, it is being viewed as another occasion to test the ability of the opposition to bond together to challenge the Bharatiya Janata Party.
While Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar skipped the meeting, senior Janata Dal (United), or JD(U), leader Sharad Yadav did attend. Kumar’s absence notwithstanding, the implicit support extended by the JD(U) to the opposition candidate is significant; in the presidential polls, JD(U) had broken ranks to support NDA’s presidential candidate Ram Nath Kovind last month.
Another cause for worry for the Congress, which is leading the opposition, is whether some parties may rethink their support once the NDA names its candidate.
Tuesday’s meeting was attended by the Congress’ top brass Sonia Gandhi, Rahul Gandhi and Manmohan Singh as well as senior leaders of Trinamool Congress, Left parties, Samajwadi Party, Bahujan Samaj Party and Dravida Munnetra Kazhagham.
Elections, if required, to the post of vice-president are scheduled to be held on 5 August. Counting of votes shall also take place on the same day. The last date of nomination is 18 July and scrutiny of nominations will take place on 19 July. The last date for withdrawal of nomination is 21 July.
“It is a token fight as Congress-led opposition parties lack the required number to give the NDA a fight. Just as the NDA played the caste card to divide the opposition parties in the presidential election race, similarly the ruling alliance may try to further divide the opposition in vice-presidential electionS,” said Abhay Kumar Dubey, a New Delhi based political analyst.