May 27, 2018, 10:52 pm IST
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Race to Raisina Hill begins

Race to Raisina Hill begins

S. Shivadas , Jul 02, 2017

As the Presidential election deadline approaches there is hectic activity and back-room moves to select the most suitable candidate. While the UPA held meetings with all the partners with Sonia Gandhi taking the lead, the ruling NDA has also been going about consulting allies and like-minded parties. There are also moves to bring about a consensus among all parties and avoid a contest. Taking the lead in these efforts are veteran CPM leader Sitaram Yechuri and Venkaiah Naidu of the ruling party,both are able negotiators.
Since the post is not just a ceremonial one especially during the crucial Lok Sabha elections scheduled for 2019, and the President will have to play a critical role in case there are problems, both the ruling combine and opposition have to negotiate carefully and tactfully.
At the outset though it would seem like smooth sailing for the ruling NDA combine, with the Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand state election verdicts going in their favour, the numbers overall seem to suggest a different story. On the face of it this should be comfortable for the ruling dispensation; 413 seats in the 748-seat Parliament against UPA’s 162 and in the state assemblies 2204 seats against the UPA’s1288. But there is the category, ‘others’, which has 1360 seats. And that could pose a tricky problem.
Here is where back room negotiations can come into full play. Here too the ruling combine seems to have a better chance because of their diverse ways of handling contentious issues, sometimes after creating these in the first place.
Though for bringing about a consensus and taking everybody along in a country of continental proportions needs not just negotiating skills but multiple ways of handling sectional issues and great patience and stamina, here too the ruling combine seems to have an edge.
One recalls the Vietnamese General Giap’s quip. When he was told that Rajiv Gandhi had a 400-seat majority, he cautioned Natwar Singh that it is at such moments that one has to be extra careful because you would be treading on minefields. And this is exactly what happened in 1987. The NDA could be falling in such a trap.
The selection of candidates for the post of president becomes all the more dicey. Already there are more contenders, and names keep cropping up almost daily. It is a Herculean job to strike a balance between regions and languages, between age groups and genders. Here, however, the UPA seems to have an edge with all the commands emanating from one source. To bring a country of continental proportions under one unified umbrella is an achievement that needs to be applauded and celebrated.
Finally, this country seems somehow to resolve all its contradictions and carry everybody along. That is the unique gift of the ‘argumentative Indian’ wherever he is.

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