The ruling NDA has rightly initiated talks with opposition parties for evolving a consensus candidate for the ensuing Presidential elections. This is appreciable given the character of this highest office in Indian democracy.
The Constitution of India has deliberately designed the Electoral College for the President of India in such a way that the state legislatures also have a role in electing the Head of the Government of India. Such a provision is, in fact, a celebration of the spirit of federalism. The interests of Indian democracy would well be served if the incumbent at the Rashtrapati Bhavan enjoys broadest possible acceptance.
But, there is a world of difference between theory and practice of democracy. History shows there has been only one President, the late Neelam Sanjiva Reddy, who was elected unopposed in independent India. Therefore, making a virtue out of consensus election lacks political sagacity and sense of Constitutional history.
The manner in which the BJP initiated the process gives an impression that it is seeking an unconditional support for its nominee and wants the opposition to refrain from contesting. Three points to ponder here. The BJP deliberately kept away until the opposition began its parleys to find a common cause.
This seems to be an intelligent ploy to levy the blame on the opposition for failing to evolve a consensus. The BJP has also started negotiations with the opposition only after poaching some political parties outside the ruling combine.
It, somehow, managed regional parties like the two warring groups of ADMK, YSR Congress and perhaps, the TRS who should have normally been with the united opposition in such a crucial juncture in national polity. Any talk of consensus after disarming the opposition lacks any earnestness of purpose.
Despite all this, the BJP delegation went to opposition leaders without any name to propose. Presidential election is obviously between individuals. Therefore, the consensus should be on the name of the individual. No consensus can be built in abstractness.
Even after names of opposition probables are in public domain, the ruling party is still keeping its cards close to the chest. It only implies that BJP intends the support of opposition to its nominee whomsoever one may be. This is nothing but seeking concurrence rather than consensus. Such an exercise would certainly be unacceptable for any opposition party that has a semblance of self-respect.
One cannot ignore the fact that Presidential election in a democracy is simply a political contest. Even the BJP did not shy away from contesting while it was in opposition despite knowing that its nominee had no chances of winning. At least now, the non-NDA parties have a clear edge over the NDA in the Electoral College.
The BJP would have faced political embarrassment if it had not drawn some of the regional parties outside NDA to its fold.
At a time when the opposition has serious concerns over the BJP’s understanding and practice of Constitution, the ruling combine should have travelled a few extra miles to reach out to its adversaries instead of indulging in such a political management if it is really serious about consensus on this august office.