Why The Shiv Sena’s Googly On Making RSS Chief President Is Just The Opening Gambit
Shiv Sena is unlikely to back the NDA nominee without a decent concession from the BJP.
The suggestion that Bhagwat should be the NDA’s candidate is just the opening move in a long campaign to make the BJP eat crow.
Shiv Sena, the Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP) estranged ally in Maharashtra, has proposed that Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh (RSS) chief Mohan Bhagwat should be the National Democratic Alliance’s (NDA) candidate for President. No one in his right mind should see this as anything more than an effort to queer the pitch for the BJP, which is slightly short of a majority in the presidential polls, and thus needs the Sena and at least one major non-NDA party to get its candidate elected.
In the electoral college for selecting the President, the NDA theoretically has a near majority as long as it can convince one or two major opposition parties to sign on to the ticket. The President is elected by MPs and MLAs of all state assemblies, and the value of the total votes is around 1,098,882. Each MP’s vote equals 708 electoral college votes, and MLAs’ votes vary from state to state.
To win, the President needs 549,442 votes, and the NDA parties have 529,398 votes after the Uttar Pradesh elections – about 20,000 votes short. The Shiv Sena has 30,000 votes between its MPs and MLAs, and if it plays hard-to-get it will mean the BJP has to garner over 50,000 votes from opposition parties excluding the Sena.
The reason why the Sena has suggested Bhagwat is to make sure that no opposition party can back him, which means the proposal is dead on arrival. Since the BJP will obviously not put up Bhagwat as a presidential candidate, the Sena can claim it was backing Hindutva and the RSS, and leave itself free to confabulate with the BJP’s rivals on how to give the NDA a bloody nose in the presidential polls, or extract a high price for agreeing to the NDA nominee. The price could be retention of its seat share in the 2019 Lok Sabha polls, and maybe even a deputy chief ministership in Maharashtra. The BJP could conceivably agree to the second demand, since it is essentially symbolic, but it cannot agree on the first, since it needs more seats than before from states outside UP to retain its majority in 2019.
There is a way for the BJP to throw the ball back into the Sena’s court on Bhagwat, since the NDA can say get us the numbers for Bhagwat and we can consider – something the Sena simply will not find takers for in the opposition.
But while the issue of Bhagwat can be neatly sidestepped, the BJP has to come to terms with the reality that a party fighting for its political future will not be reasonable. The Sena will play hardball and the BJP has to figure out the right mix of carrot-and-stick to hit this hardball for a six.
It is worth recalling that the Sena broke ranks with the NDA repeatedly during past presidential elections, from backing Pratibha Patil in 2007 to Pranab Mukherjee in 2012. It is unlikely to back the NDA nominee without a decent concession from the BJP. The suggestion that Bhagwat should be the NDA’s candidate is just the opening move in a long campaign to make the BJP eat crow.
As you are no doubt aware, Swarajya is a media product that is directly dependent on support from its readers in the form of subscriptions. We do not have the muscle and backing of a large media conglomerate nor are we playing for the large advertisement sweep-stake.
Our business model is you and your subscription. And in challenging times like these, we need your support now more than ever.
We deliver over 10 - 15 high quality articles with expert insights and views. From 7AM in the morning to 10PM late night we operate to ensure you, the reader, get to see what is just right.
Becoming a Patron or a subscriber for as little as Rs 1200/year is the best way you can support our efforts.