Retired Supreme Court judge
V Gopala Gowda, who ruled in favour of farmers in the Singur land acquisition
case last year, is among the names being considered by the Opposition as its joint candidate for the vice-presidential election.
In August 2016, an apex court bench headed by Gowda passed the Singur judgment, ordering the West Bengal government to return nearly 1,000 acres acquired for the Tata Nano plant to the original owners.
The 18 Opposition parties, including the Janata Dal (United), are scheduled to meet on Tuesday morning to discuss and announce the name. Gowda’s name is being discussed within various Opposition parties at a time when they plan to raise the issue of farmer suicides and agrarian distress vociferously in the upcoming monsoon session of Parliament.
There have been sustained peasant protests in Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra and Rajasthan since May-end, particularly after five farmers were killed in police firing in Mandsaur on June 6.
In a rare instance of agreement, bitter political rivals the Trinamool Congress and the Communist Party of India (Marxist) are said to have agreed on Gowda’s name. Gowda hails from Karnataka, and the Congress and the Janata Dal (Secular) are also looking at the Karnataka Assembly polls, scheduled for May 2018.
While the Mamata Banerjee-led Trinamool had protested against the Singur land acquisition, the CPI (M) had later accepted that “there were mistakes in the handling of Singur”. Forcing the Narendra Modi government to drop its land acquisition Bill in 2015 was a rare success the Opposition has tasted in the past three years.
The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-led National
Democratic Alliance (NDA) is yet to announce its vice-presidential candidate, but Manipur Governor Najma Heptullah has reached out to opposition parties for support, if her name were to be announced as the official candidate of the ruling coalition. The Opposition, however, is determined to announce its candidate before the BJP does. The BJP parliamentary board is set to meet in the next couple of days.
From the NDA, Information and Broadcasting Minister M Venkaiah Naidu and Maharashtra Governor C Vidyasagar Rao are among the contenders. Given its numbers in Parliament, the NDA is set to win the vice-presidential election comfortably. Its strategists claim to have nearly 550 votes in its bag in an electoral college of 788, comprising Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha members.
The NDA is in minority in the Rajya Sabha and is unlikely to cross the halfway mark in terms of seats until 2022. The vice-president is also chairperson of the Rajya Sabha. Therefore, a candidate with ideally legislative experience is needed to run the Upper House.
While Naidu recently ruled himself out of the race, sources said he continued to be an aspirant. Sources also pointed out there had not been a vice-president from southern India since K R Narayanan, who was in office from 1992 to 1997. APJ Abdul Kalam was the latest president from the South.
The last date for filing nomination papers for the post is July 18 and the election will be held on August 5.