Former Punjab chief minister Capt Amarinder Singh is the fourth candidate to jump into the vice-presidential race, even as there are intense speculations that any of the three Muslim names from the NDA, outgoing union minister Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi, Kerala Governor Arif Mohammad Khan and former union minister Najma Heptullah could make it the post.
The Election Commission has already issued a notification for the August 6 polls to elect India’s 16th Vice President. The filing of nominations has already begun with July 19 being the deadline for filing papers for the second-highest constitutional position after the President of India.
The BJP has adequate electoral strength to get its candidate elected as Vice President, while the party as is known could even spring a surprise just like the Presidential candidate Droupadi Murmu.
The term of incumbent M Venkaiah Naidu ends on August 10. The next Vice President will take oath on August 11. The scrutiny of nomination papers will take place on July 20, and the last date for withdrawal of candidature is July 22.
According to senior BJP leaders, an intensive search is on within the party leadership to select “an able, non-controversial leader belonging to the ‘pasmanda’ Muslim community” as the Vice-Presidential candidate. “If the leadership is unable to decide on a surprise candidate, the party could pick any of these four names, Arif Mohammed Khan, Naqvi, Najma Heptulla and former Punjab CM Amarinder Singh.
Meanwhile, according to sources, Capt Amarinder Singh is likely to merge his party Punjab Lok Congress with the BJP after his return from London, where he recently underwent spinal surgery.
Though there is no official confirmation about this from the party, senior Punjab BJP leader Harjit Singh Grewal on Saturday claimed that a decision in this connection had already been made.
Before departing for London, Capt Singh had conveyed his intention to merge his party with the BJP, Grewal said, adding the former chief minister might announce the merger on his return.
Singh, the scion of the erstwhile Patiala Royal family and a two-time chief minister, had floated the PLC after he quit the Congress following his unceremonious exit as the chief minister last year.
The PLC contested the 2022 state assembly polls in alliance with the BJP and the Sukhdev Singh Dhindsa-led Shiromani Akali Dal (Sanyuk). Nobody from his party won and Amarinder Singh himself lost from his fort, the Patiala Urban seat.