Putting all speculation to an end, BJP patriarch Lal Krishna Advani on Friday said that he is not in the race for the post of the President of India.
Advani's name was doing the rounds as he was believed to be the strong contender for the post. Advani started his political career as a volunteer for the RSS and served as the country's Home Minister between 1998-2004. He was also appointed as the Deputy Prime Minister during Atal Bihari Vajpayee's regime.
In an interview to CNN News18 outside the parliament, Advani said that he was not in the race for President. Earlier in the month, Zee News reported that the Prime Minister had suggested LK Advani's name for the post of India's President. According to Zee News sources, PM Narendra Modi put forward Advani's name during a meeting in Gujarat's Somnath.
Now that the senior BJP leader himself has ruled out of being in the Presidential race, here are some other names that are floating around for the post.
Murli Manohar Joshi
Plus: A veteran RSS ideologue and a prominent Brahmin face from Uttar Pradesh (where the BJP recorded a sweeping victory in the recently concluded assembly polls), Joshi has good rapport with the allies, as well as with the JD(U), BJD and the AIADMK. RSS leaders think he can be a good choice as their first ideologue in Rashtrapati Bhavan. Over the past two years, he has also successfully bridged the gap with PM Modi.
What's not in his favour: There is not much support for him within the party. He has always been seen as the third in command in the line of leadership hierarchy, after Atal Bihari Vajpayee and L.K. Advani.
Plus: An old warhorse with a good stint in the UP Raj Bhawan. Naik, a former Cabinet Minister in the earlier NDA government, also has good rapport with Modi, Amit Shah and the RSS leadership.
What's not in his favour: It will be difficult for the BJP to pick him and ignore the big two also in the fray.
Plus: The BJP's best bet as a Dalit face. He belongs to the Dalit community Koli and worked extensively in Uttar Pradesh and Bihar before being elevated as the Bihar Governor. Earlier, he headed the party's Dalit base and groomed several leaders for the BJP and the RSS. At one time, the party wanted to project his as an alternative to Mayawati in UP.
What's not in his favour: He does not have backing of leaders from other communities, both in the party and the RSS. Not having an impressive tenure as the Bihar Governor is another handicap. He has been close to Home Minister Rajnath Singh, but the proximity can backfire as well when it comes to his candidature.
Thawar Chand Gehlot, Union Minister for Social Development & Entrepreneurship
Plus: A noted Dalit face and a Modi-Amit Shah loyalist, his elevation to the President's post can help BJP portray a pro-Dalit image, wipe out the weakening BSP in Uttar Pradesh and further extend the party's base among dalits in Andhra Pradesh, Telangana and Maharashtra.
What's not in his favour: He does not have much backing from the RSS. Moreover, the Sangh believes he can still deliver as a Cabinet Minister and should serve the party at the national level.
Plus: A tribal woman leader from Odisha and currently the Governor of Jharkhand, Murmu may be projected as the first tribal President of India and that too, from the BJP fold. This can help the party expand its base in the tribal areas of the country.
What's not in her favour: She may not be too keen for this position as she is eyeing the Rajya Sabha and a meaty portfolio in the Union Cabinet.
Sumitra Mahajan, Speaker, Lok Sabha
Plus: A woman leader and a seasoned politician from Indore. Has a strong network among politicians across party lines. She is close to both PM Modi and party chief Amit Shah.
What's not in her favour: RSS may not favour her as a choice. It is still not clear, whether party leadership is considering her bet. She may lose out to Sushma Swaraj as a choice, who has all the backing from big RSS leaders. (Swaraj is pitching for VP post, but if women president needs to be made, she can be the first choice).
Amitabh Bachchan, Actor
Plus: Close to PM Modi and is first choice to be the face of the government's social campaigns.
What's not in his favour: His last tenure as a politician was a disaster. RSS may veto his name. Plus his wife continues to be Samajwadi Party's MP and a bitter critic of the RSS and the NDA government.
Plus: A huge fan base in Tamil speaking community across the world. His name will help BJP make inroads into Tamil Nadu before 2019. With the death of J Jayalalithaa, BJP sees as an opportunity to make a dent in Tamil politics.
What's not in his favour: BJP doesn't a large cadre in the state. The party's tallest leader down south is Pon Radhakrishnan.
Office of the Vice President: The four in fray
Plus: Currently the Minister of External Affairs and also responsible for overseas Indian affairs. Reports suggest that she is keen to go for the not-so-strenuous role due to health reasons as she has recently undergone a kidney transplant. Her stint as a Cabinet Minister is rated high and she has also worked as a backroom strategist. Swaraj is active on Twitter as the minister in charge of overseas Indians. She has also gelled well with Team Modi.
What's not in her favour: After the exit of Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar--he is now Chief Minister of Goa--it is not easy for PM Modi to spare her as well. She is a key member of the team working on the China strategy and with the ongoing changes in the U.S. regime, she will be required even more.
M Venkaiah Naidu
Plus: Currently serving as the Minister of Urban Development and also in charge of Information and Broadcasting. Just like Swaraj, he, too, is keen to take on a lighter assignment due to health issues. A former leader of the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP), Naidu has firm backing of the RSS leadership.
What's not in his favour: Once again, it may be difficult for PM Modi to spare Naidu, especially when Amit Shah is working on a mission to crack South India for the BJP. Naidu is required for his oratory skills and his friends across the party line down south to make this mission successful. Naidu as a choice can work both ways.
Plus: Currently the Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSME) Minister in the Union Cabinet, Mishra has played an active role in mobilising Brahmin votes in the UP polls. He has already celebrated his 75th birthday and is keenly pushing for the Office of the Vice President as an exit route.
What's not in his favour: Not an RSS choice and most of the leaders consider him as "close" to a particular caste. His work as the MSME head is seen as a below-average performance.
Parkash Singh Badal
Plus: Five-time Chief Minister of Punjab and a veteran of anti-Emergency struggle, he is only the second leader outside the BJP to be considered for the top role. During the first tenure of the NDA, another Akali leader, Simranjit Singh Mann, was elected as the Vice President of India. Badal was the Union Cabinet Minister for agriculture in PM Morarji Desai's government along with Advani and Vajpayee. However, Badal's party, the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) is now out of power in Punjab.
The veteran leader may not contest the next polls because of his age, and can be rewarded with this office. It was only his presence in the government that led the BJP's central leadership to avoid a split with the Akalis before the assembly polls. But his exit from the state politics may enable the BJP to gradually move out of the alliance.
What's not in his favour: It will require the BJP leadership to exercise a great deal of manoeuvring to ward off other aspirants, especially when the party has comfortable numbers.