After coming to power with an absolute majority in the Lok Sabha in 2014, the BJP is setting its eyes on creating history by installing a saffron politician as the President of India in 2017. It has begun calculations for the presidential polls as the party has its best shot at getting a person of its own choice to the top position, a top BJP source with knowledge of the matter said.
“We have done state-wise calculations already. We find that the NDA has an edge of 22,078 votes (in presidential elections),” this person said. An advantage of 22,078 is wafer thin in presidential polls, as it amounts to just over 2% of the total value of the electoral college votes, which is 10,98,882. While the source refrained from giving details of the calculations, the precise calculation to this extent reflected the party’s seriousness towards the bid.
It also probably indicated remoteness of the BJP agreeing to a second term for incumbent Pranab Mukherjee, a long-time Congressman. Election of the President of India holds significance for Prime Minister Narendra Modi and BJP chief Amit Shah as they have the first ever real chance of installing a thoroughbred saffron politician to the highest office of the country.
The last time when the NDA was in power, under Atal Bihari Vajpayee, the party didn’t have the required numbers. It struck a compromise over the non-partisan name of APJ Abdul Kalam to avoid the opposition managing to appoint its nominee. Its majority in Lok Sabha and its electoral gains in Maharashtra, Haryana, Jharkhand, Jammu and Kashmir and Assam has given the BJP confidence this time.
Apart from 282 Lok Sabha members, the BJP has its highest ever tally of 1,126 MLAs across the country. In contrast, rival Congress has shrunk to 44 MPs in the Lok Sabha and less than 900 MLAs. The presidential polls, expected during June-July next year, will happen after the assembly elections in Uttar Pradesh. BJP’s current estimate is based on its poor numbers in UP and party managers hope to improve it after the state elections where it has high expectations.
“Well, everyone would agree that we are going to get more MLAs than what we have in UP assembly now,” said the source. The electoral college for the election of the President of India comprises 4,896 legislators: 776 Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha members, and 4,120 MLAs. While the value of MPs’ votes is uniform, it varies for MLAs according to the population of the state as estimated during the 1971 census.