Hamid Ansari is set to make history as the second person in India with two terms as vice-president.
Sonia Gandhi, as chairperson of the ruling UPA coalition, announced Mr Ansari as its candidate. "Shri Mohammed Hamid Ansari will shortly complete his term as the Vice President of India. He has presided over the Rajya Sabha with dignity .The UPA is honoured to nominate his name as a candidate for a second term as Vice-President of India," Mrs Gandhi said at a meeting of UPA allies this afternoon. Within minutes, the Samajwadi Party and Mayawati's Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) extended their support. The numbers are comfortably in Mr Ansari's favour.
Key ally Sharad Pawar's NCP skipped the meeting. He later told the press
he supports Mr Ansari. Sources say his absence telegraphed his
discontent with Defence Minister AK Antony being seated next to the PM
at the last cabinet meeting, which confers the status of No 2 in the
UPA member Mamata Banerjee is not on board with Mr Ansari's as vice-president - and is unlikely to come around. The UPA meet today was attended by Mukul Roy on behalf of Ms Banerjee's Trinamool Congress.
Mr Roy, who is Railway Minister, opposed Mr Ansari's candidature. Instead, he suggested the names of former Bengal governor Gopal Krishna Gandhi and Krishna Bose, a relative of Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose. "I will get back to my party, and come back with a decision," Mr Roy told the media soon after Mrs Gandhi's announcement.
It's unlikely that Ms Banerjee will support Mr Ansari given that he was endorsed for the post five years ago by her arch rival, the Left. Sources say she has indicated that her party may abstain during the voting for both President and Vice-President.
She fell out with the UPA last month after she rejected Pranab Mukherjee as the coalition's candidate for President of India - the election is scheduled for July 19.
Before today's meeting, the Prime Minister had phoned Leader of the Opposition Sushma Swaraj and senior BJP leader LK Advani to solicit their support for Mr Ansari. Sources say the BJP has declined because of how Mr Ansari handled the Lokpal Bill in the Rajya Sabha in December.
As Vice-President, Mr Ansari is also the Chairman of the Upper House. The anti-corruption Lokpal Bill had been cleared by the Lok Sabha. In the Rajya Sabha, the government was unlikely to win - the BJP and other parties had moved 200 amendments. They wanted the discussion and vote to take place even though time had run out - it was the last day of the winter session of Parliament. But Mr Ansari did not permit that, allowing the government to escape the insult of having a major proposal defeated.
The BJP has said that it will field a candidate for vice-president against MR Ansari. The BJP core group met this evening at party president Nitin Gadkari's residence to finalise its strategy for the elections. BJP leader Ananth Kumar said the party will decide the name of the NDA candidate soon. It has called for a meeting of the NDA allies on July 16 to discuss the matter. The BJP already has the support of one its key allies, Shiv Sena, which has come out and said they will support an NDA candidate if it decides to field a challenger. The BJP has endorsed former speaker PA Sangma for President against the UPA's Mr Mukherjee. (Read
Mr Ansari's election is not likely to be a close one. He needs 396 votes to win. Even without Ms Banerjee's Trinamool Congress, the UPA easily has 444 MPs voting for him.