Three Muslim candidates in fray for Indian vice president’s post

Three candidates, all Muslims, have filed their nominations for the Indian vice-presidential elections to be held in August, the Election Commission said Monday. Mohammed Hameed Ansari, 65, has been nominated by the ruling United Progressive Alliance (UPA) and is the choice of its leftist partners, who provide key support to the alliance in Parliament.

Ansari, a former diplomat and academic, is currently chairman of India’s Minority Commission, which oversees affairs relating to the country’s minority communities.

Najma Heptullah, 67, the only woman in the fray, is the candidate of the opposition National Democratic Alliance (NDA).

She is former deputy chairwoman of the Rajya Sabha or upper house of Parliament and is a career politician who switched loyalty from the Congress Party, part of the UPA, to the Bharatiya Janata Party, which is now in the opposition in 2004.

Rasheed Masood, 60, also a politician and currently a member of Parliament, is nominee of a third front the United National Progressive Alliance comprising several regional parties. Rasheed is a member of the Samajwadi Party which has a base in northern Uttar Pradesh state.

The new vice president will succeed Bhairon Singh Shekhawat, who resigned Saturday after unsuccessfully contesting for the post of president as opposition NDA nominee. Shekhawat’s five-year term would have ended in August.

Unlike the presidential election in which all members of Parliament and state assemblies are eligible to vote, the electoral college for the Indian vice-president comprises only representatives of Parliament.

The candidate of the ruling alliance is likely to win, analysts say, as the UPA has the largest number of lawmakers with the support of leftist parties and some key regional parties.

The role of vice president of India is largely ceremonial. The vice president acts as president in the event of death, resignation, or removal until a new president is elected.

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