Jaswant Singh is NDA choice for Vice President

New Delhi: Divided over the presidential poll, the Bharatiya Janata Party-led NDA Monday unanimously named BJP veteran leader Jaswant Singh as its Vice Presidential candidate.

Although numbers in Parliament do not favour Jaswant Singh, he denied he was fighting a losing battle.

“This particular election of President and Vice President goes beyond number,” he told the media.

Jaswant Singh, considered a moderate face in the BJP, will be pitted against the ruling United Progressive Alliance (UPA) nominee and incumbent Hamid Ansari, who is widely tipped to win.

The candidature of Jaswant Singh, who has served as the finance, external affairs and defence ministers, was announced by BJP leader L.K. Advani.

“We have decided not to give them (Congress-led UPA) a walkover… We have unanimously decided that Jaswant Singh will be our vice presidential candidate,” Advani said soon after a NDA meeting here.

Advani said Janata Dal-United (JD-U) chief Sharad Yadav was asked to be the opposition candidate for the post but he declined.

The BJP leader said they would approach other non-Congress parties, including the Trinamool Congress and AIADMK to garner support for Jaswant Singh.

Jaswant Singh said: “It is a matter of great respect that the NDA has unanimously chosen me as their candidate. It is a big responsibility and also a challenge.”

Speaking at his residence, he said he would talk to West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee. “I am an MP from West Bengal, so I will seek her support.”

The announcement is good news for the main opposition party after allies JD-U and Shiv Sena broke ranks to support UPA candidate Pranab Mukherjee for the July 19 presidential poll.

In Patna, Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar said his party endorsed Jaswant Singh’s candidature.

“The NDA (National Democratic Alliance) is united for the vice presidential poll and the Janata Dal-United (JD-U) is with Jaswant Singh” Nitish Kumar told reporters.

Born January 1938 in Jodhpur, Jaswant Singh was educated at Mayo College, Ajmer, before he moved to the National Defence Academy.

He joined the Indian Army in 1957 and left it in 1966.

Jaswant Singh first entered Parliament in 1980, the year the BJP was born as a later avatar of the Jana Sangh.

He has been elected to the Rajya Sabha five times and to the Lok Sabha four times. He was the opposition leader in the Rajya Sabha from 2004, and he is now a member of the Lok Sabha from Darjeeling.

Ansari already has the support of 438 votes in the 790 member electoral college, more than the 50 per cent needed to win.

And in what was another setback for Jaswant Singh, the Jharkhand Mukti Morcha, a part of the BJP government in Jharkhand, announced it would back UPA candidates for both the presidential and vice-presidential polls.