Bharatiya Janata Party leader Jaswant Singh was on Monday chosen by the National Democratic Alliance as its unanimous candidate for the August 7 vice presidential election against United Progressive Alliance's nominee Hamid Ansari.
The opposition alliance said it had reservations over the re-nomination of Ansari, particularly the manner in which he conducted the Rajya Sabha when the Lokpal Bill was discussed and the Women's Reservation Bill was passed.
"We have decided not to give them (Congress-led UPA) a walkover. We have unanimously decided that Jaswant Singh will be the NDA candidate in the vice presidential poll," NDA Working President L K Advani announced after the meeting.
Advani said Janata Dal - United chief Sharad Yadav had also raised concerns over Ansari's conduct in the passage of the Women's Reservation Bill in the Rajya Sabha where marshals were used to oust those opposed to the legislation.
He said the same concerns were shared with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh when he had called him on Saturday to seek support for Ansari's candidature.
Advani said Yadav, also the NDA convener, was initially approached to contest the vice presidential election, but he had declined the offer, citing his interest in active politics.
The BJP leader indicated that the NDA would reach out to all those parties which have not committed their support to the UPA nominee.
Reacting to his nomination, 74-year-old Jaswant Singh said, "It is a matter of great respect that the NDA has unanimously chosen me as their candidate for the post of vice president. It is a big responsibility and also a challenge".
Shiv Sena is supporting Pranab Mukherjee in the presidential election but had agreed to support the NDA's candidate even before Singh's name was announced. Shiv Sena Member of Parliament Sanjay Raut was present at the NDA meeting.
Sources said though Singh was initially reluctant to contest as the UPA has the numbers on its side and Ansari is set to get another term as vice president, he was convinced by the BJP leaders to enter the fray.
Asked about the issue, Advani said, "Had he (Jaswant Singh) not agreed, we would not have announced his name."
Pointing towards Sharad Yadav, Advani said he had not agreed and so Singh was chosen.
Welcoming the announcement, Singh said it is a matter of great respect that NDA has unanimously chosen him as its candidate. "This is a big responsibility and also a challenge. We (NDA) are here as one force. I thank the NDA for giving me this responsibility."
Singh, who is a Member of Parliament from Darjeeling, was expelled from the BJP in August 2010 when he had praised Pakistan founder M A Jinnah in his book "Jinnah: India, Partition, Independence". He was re-inducted into the party by BJP chief Nitin Gadkari in 2011.
Advani told reporters that Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had called him and other top BJP leaders to solicit support for Ansari.
"The PM called me about five minutes before announcing the UPA's vice presidential candidate. It was only like following a custom," he said.
Advani said he had conveyed to the prime minister that NDA has objections to Ansari's name as he had abruptly adjourned the Rajya Sabha during the Lokpal debate.
"I told him that we have our reservations and disinclination (towards Ansari's candidature)," Advani said.
NDA also said that its reservations on Ansari's candidature are due to the manner in which the Women's Reservation Bill was passed in the Rajya Sabha.
"Sharad Yadav pointed out in our meeting that when the Women's Reservation Bill was to be passed, a large number of marshals were brought in to take out members opposed to the Bill. This is not acceptable to anybody. So we decided to oppose Ansari," Advani said, adding that the NDA had unanimously decided not to give a "walkover" to the UPA.
Sources said the NDA meeting began with a discussion on Yadav's candidature. When he did not agree, the name of Najma Heptullah was also proposed. She had met Sharad Yadav sometime ago to garner support for her candidature.
But BJP leaders said she is not keen on contesting now as she had fought and lost against Ansari in 2007.
It was then that Jaswant Singh's name was proposed by the BJP and accepted by all allies.
"Had he (Yadav) agreed to contest, the situation would have been different," Advani told reporters after the meeting.