Saturday, July 13, 2002, Chandigarh, India


M A I N   N E W S

Suraj Bhan joins race for VPís post
Yoginder Gupta
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, July 12
Himachal Governor, Suraj Bhan has joined the race for the post of Vice-President of the country following re-thinking in the BJP over the candidature of former Rajasthan Chief Minister, Bhairon Singh Shekhawat, who was being considered as the final choice of the party till a few days ago, according to an informed source.

The sources say a strong section of the party feels that if Mr Shekhawat becomes the Vice-President, a vacuum will be created in the Rajasthan BJP leadership, which will be difficult to fill by the time the Assembly elections are held in that state next year. Mr Shekhawat, this section feels, is the only charismatic BJP leader who can fetch votes for the party, which stands a good chance to capture power in the state currently under Congress rule.

Another school of thought in the BJP says that the Muslim-Dalit combination will be good for the partyís image, which has been badly scarred by the Gujarat incidents. The obvious reference is to the Presidential candidate being a Muslim. If the BJP is able to install Dr Suraj Bhan, who is a Dalit, on the second senior-most constitutional post, the party may be able to sell its ďachievementĒ on the Muslim-Dalit combination in the next elections. Moreover, since a second term has been denied to Mr K.R. Narayanan, a Dalit, as President, it would send a positive signal if the party were to choose a Dalit as Vice-President.

The sources say certain senior Dalit leaders of the Congress have unofficially conveyed that Mrs Sonia Gandhi has no objection to Dr Suraj Bhanís candidature.


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