RSS Chief Mohan Bhagwat For President? Good Idea, Says Shiv Sena

MUMBAI: With President Pranab Mukherjee’s term drawing to a close, BJP ally Shiv Sena — seen mostly as its proxy-opposition at the Centre and the state — has come up with a surprise proposal. Mohan Bhagwat, the chief of BJP’s ideological mentor Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, should be considered for the post, the Shiv Sena has told the Narendra Modi government.

“We hear that the name of Mohan Bhagwat is being considered and if so, I think it is right and the BJP should consider his name,” Sanjay Raut, lawmaker and executive editor of Saamna, the magazine linked to the party, has said.

But he added a caveat: The Sena’s decision on whom to support for the post will be taken only by party chief Uddhav Thackeray and it is necessary that he be consulted. “One should speak to Uddhav-ji, who is in Mumbai. If you want our support for this candidate (Mr Bhagwat) for the president’s post, do come to Mumbai and meet Uddhav-ji,” he said.

President Mukherjee’s term comes to an end in July and there are speculations that the Narendra Modi government will look for a fresh face for the nation’s highest office.

The BJP’s blazing victory in Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand has stacked the numbers in electoral college – the body that chooses the President -in its favour. The Electoral College comprises 776 parliamentarians and 4,120 legislators. Its total strength is 10,98,882 votes and the halfway mark is 5,49,442 votes. Even counting the support of Shiv Sena, the NDA will fall short of 25,000 votes.

Asked if reports that Mr Thackeray has been invited for the NDA meet later this month by Prime Minister Narendra Modi is correct, Mr Raut countered with a question: “Have you seen the invitation?”

“Such meetings of the NDA keep happening, but the election to such an important post is a big thing. If you want our support, you have to come to Mumbai to invite us,” he added.

The troubled relationship between the Sena and the BJP had hit an all-time low in the run-up to the Mumbai civic elections, with Mr Thackeray announcing that he would not enter an alliance with the BJP in future.

Earlier, Mr Thackeray and various leaders of his party had taken every opportunity to criticise the government. It had opposed the Centre’s handling of demonitisation and criticised its choice of Sharad Pawar for Padma awards. It had opposed the Centre’s policy towards Pakistan and its floods and droughts in the country.