Saturday, June 1, 2002, Chandigarh, India


M A I N   N E W S

Kant eyes top post, seeks Naidu’s help
T.R. Ramachandran
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, May 31
The issue of evolving a consensus on who should be the next occupant of Rashtrapati Bhavan hangs by a slender thread and depends largely on whether incumbent President K.R. Narayanan is willing to throw his hat in the ring for a second term.

Authoritative sources said even though the Vajpayee government had made its position clear that there should be a new occupant in keeping with convention, Mr Narayanan was yet to disclose his mind one way or the other.

That had added a new dimension to the widespread opinion that the BJP-led NDA government should strive for a consensus about the office of the President, especially when the country was passing through a difficult time with tension running high along the LoC.

Even though Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee has not yet given up hope of building a consensus with Mr Narayanan out of the presidential race, he believes the Congress and other Opposition parties can still do a rethink. This can be done if the two sides shortlist their own panel of names for discussion.

Judging the prevailing mood in the Opposition ranks that Mr Narayanan should be accorded a second term, a section in the BJP and certain other constituents of the NDA maintained that reaching unanimity on the choice of the next President was like chasing a mirage.

Nevertheless, Mr Vajpayee is hoping that before he starts his next round of discussions about the presidential candidate next month, the ongoing political oneupmanship of taking up the cause of Mr Narayanan as the country’s first Dalit President would have subsided.

It is in this context that Mr Vajpayee’s meeting with Mr Narayanan yesterday which was overdue assumes importance. The Prime Minister sought to put the record straight and politely conveyed to Mr Narayanan the views of the NDA that it disfavoured a second term for the present Head of State.

Simultaneously, it is argued in NDA circles that the Congress and the Left parties are doing everything to queer the pitch for Mr Narayanan, thereby forcing a contest. The Congress on the other hand maintained that when it was consulted about the next President, it strongly felt that Mr Narayanan, who had discharged the duties and responsibilities with great dignity and honour should be given another term.

The ongoing verbal duel has created a piquant situation for Mr Narayanan and the political heavyweights in the political firmament. Nevertheless, a lot will depend on what Mr Narayanan decides — to contest or bid a quiet and honourable adieu to Rashtrapati Bhavan.

There is no doubt that in the event of a contest for the office of the President, the issue can be tantalisingly close for the NDA if the Telugu Desam Party and Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J. Jayalalithaa do not back its candidate.

In the wake of the muddled scenario on the presidential election front, some aspirants preferring to lie low have sought to activate themselves. In this context, there is speculation about Vice-President Krishan Kant and past precedent being followed of elevating the Vice President as President.

Given his proximity to Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister Chandrababu Naidu and the supremo of the TDP, Mr Kant is hoping that the leader of the southern state will use his influence with the Vajpayee government and other leaders. The Vice-President had recently visited Andhra Pradesh where he had served as Governor and had taken the opportunity to offer prayers at the pilgrim centre of Tirupati.

On his part, Mr Naidu might be willing to back Mr Kant’s candidature but that will depend on other factors, including the disposition of major political parties towards him.


NDA decision decried
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, May 31
The CPM today deplored the NDA’s decision to exclude President K.R. Narayanan from being considered for the presidentship.

In a statement, the CPM Politburo said by denying Mr Narayanan a second term the Prime Minister and the BJP leadership were trying to manipulate the choice of the next President.

The BJP gameplan seems to be first exclude Mr Narayanan and then push through its nominee, the statement said.

The NDA government’s decision has exposed the BJP’s talk of seeking a consensus on the issue of the next President, the statement said.


Madhok also in race

New Delhi, May 31
With consensus still eluding on the choice of the next President, yet another aspirant — Akhil Bharatiya Jansangh chief Balraj Madhok — has thrown his hat in the ring. At a meeting of its national office-bearers here today, the organisation passed a resolution urging Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee to sponsor Mr Madhok’s candidature. UNI

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