Ansari may get second term as Vice President

New Delhi: Hamid Ansari could get a second term as Vice President with his name figuring high in the consultations Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has had with leaders of political parties but a contest may be on the cards. The Prime Minister is believed to have discussed with JD(S) chief H D Deve Gowda and CPI(M) General Secretary Prakash Karat names of candidates for the August 7 poll for the Vice President`s post in the last few days.

In the electoral college for the Vice President`s election, comprising just the members of Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha, the UPA is comfortably placed to ensure the success of its candidate. "Prime Minister Manmohan Singh called our leader H D DeveGowda on Saturday and discussed about Vice-Presidential elections. Hamid Ansari`s name came up during the discussion. Our party fully supports Ansari`s candidature," JD-S spokesperson Danish Ali told PTI.

"Hamid Ansari name was only name that was discussed and no other name came up during the discussion," he said. Ali also said that it was very natural for incumbent Vice-President to get a second term if the ruling dispensation, during which he was elected the first time, comes to power next time too. The Prime Minister`s consultations followed the Congress Working Committee authorising party chief Sonia Gandhi to decide the candidate after discussions with allies and others.

The Prime Minister also held discussions with CPI-M general secretary Prakash Karat last week but the Left leader declined to divulge the names discussed. "He (Singh) spoke to me about three days ago. He wanted my opinion and I gave my opinion on the matter," Karat told PTI here. The Prime Minister is also learnt to have reached out to JD-S a key constituent of NDA, to solicit its support. The JD(U) is backing Pranab Mukherjee`s Presidential candidature breaking ranks with the BJP-led alliance.

However, the JD-U chief Sharad Yadav today gave broad hints that it was not possible for his party to take any decision unilaterally on the issue and said that this time the attempt is to show that the Opposition is united. 75-year-old Ansari, a former diplomat, had become Vice President in 2007 with Left parties, then key outsider supporters to UPA I government, proposing his name.

Ansari missed the bus to the Rashtrapati Bhavan as the UPA finally zeroed in on Pranab Mukherjee as its nominee for the July 19 Presidential polls. He was probably the only other name which was discussed by UPA Chairperson Sonia Gandhi with political parties. A section in the Congress party feels that Ansari`s repeat as Vice-President will send a good signal among minorities.

There has been no name for the Vice-Presidential (V-P) elections from the BJP and there is a view in the party that it should not take the risk of fielding a candidate for when it does not have the numbers. Division was witnessed in both the NDA and the Left over Presidential elections. While JD-U and Shiv Sena from the BJP-led alliance backing Pranab Mukherjee`s candidature while BJP and Akali Dal lending their weight behind the Opposition nominee PA Sangma.

Similarly while CPI-M and Forward Bloc backed Mukherjee`s candidature, CPI and RSP decided to abstain from voting. During the run-up to the Presidential elections names of BJP leader Jaswant Singh and Punjab Chief Minister and Akali Dal president Prakash Singh Badal has come as probable V-P candidates from the opposition camp.

Asked whether the Opposition will put up a candidate for Vice President this time, Yadav said his party does not not have the numbers that it can prop up somebody and ensure that person wins the Vice Presidential election on its own strength.

"The issue has so far not been discussed in NDA. A decision will be taken when any such discussion takes place. So the question does not arise at this stage about putting up a candidate," he said. He said that JD-U`s desire is that the Chair should be occupied by a "neutral person" so that all parties can raise their issues in Parliament.