Pranab Mukherjee
Pranab Mukherjee

Mumbai: Is the Shiv Sena trying to drive a wedge between PM Modi and the RSS? A day after an editorial in Sena mouthpiece Saamna said that the buzz in Delhi is the RSS could pitch for Pranab Mukherjee as a consensus prime ministerial candidate after the 2019 elections, party spokesperson Sanjay Raut indicated it was not an off-the-cuff editorial comment.

“We feel RSS is preparing itself for a situation where it might put prop Pranab Mukherjee ji as prime ministerial nominee, if the BJP fails to get the required numbers,” Raut told ANI on Sunday. The implication is that such a consensus candidate would be acceptable to both the BJP and the non-BJP formulations. At the heart of this hypotheses is the calculation that the BJP will lose a minimum of 110 seats in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections.

All this would suggest that the invite to Pranab was not aimed at just bringing the RSS into the mainstream; rather, those who have followed the chequered career of Mukheerjee, feel that he is still itching for a slice of public life – possibly as a political ‘sutradhaar’ who could act as a bridge for BJP and non-Cong formulations.

Those who subscribe to this viewpoint say that Pranab Babu alone can match the stature of PM Modi. Also, in the event of the BJP falling short of majority by a 100 seats, parties would be more inclined to join a ‘coalition’ government that is headed by a ‘neutral’ person. In this sense, at least, Pranab would be more acceptable than the likes of Amit Shah or Rajnath Singh. However, Pranab’s daughter Sharmistha Mukherjee has ruled out her father’s return to active politics. Responding to the Shiv Sena spokesperson’s statement, she tweeted: ‘‘Mr. Raut, after retiring as President of India, my father is NOT going to enter into active politics again.’’

There is nothing in the Constitution that bars a former president as positioning himself as a prime minister. Generally, former presidents are prone to settling down in retreats and passing away their days in hibernation. But Pranab is not inclined to do that despite his advancing years. A give-away was him joining Navin Patnaik, L K Advani, Deve Gowda and Sitaram Yechury at the Orissa CM’s residence. A picture that was put out on social media showed them in a huddle nibbling at Oriya delicacies.

According to sources, this was one of the first meetings that ‘‘set the ball rolling on a potential third front.’’ Pranab’s post retirement political foray may be rooted in his slight at being overlooked by the Congress president Sonia Gandhi as prime ministerial material; Madam Gandhi had then opted for the more pliable Manmohan Singh. But this is not just a slighted Congressman on his comeback trail. Pranab has very good ties with TMC chief Mamata Banerjee who is making subtle behind the scene moves in tandem with other ‘potential’ 3rd front leaders. This space needs watching. We have not heard the last of Pranabda.

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