Those that accuse the BJP of communalizing the presidential elections should look in the mirror, although the principal opposition party could be castigated for zero leadership at the national level. For the BJP to provide meaningful political competition, it must set its house in order, and that has to begin with internal elections to choose the party president.

Someone from the Samajwadi Party called the BJP communal for Sushma Swaraj saying vice-president M.Hamid Ansari lacked "stature" to be President. "Stature" was not the most appropriate word and "reservations" would have been better. After the manner Ansari shut down the Rajya Sabha debate on the Lok Pal bill, this writer had huge "reservations" about him as President.

Presumably, Sushma Swaraj and the BJP's objections flowed from similar "reservations" about Ansari, but a controversy was provoked by the use of a wrong word. In politics, one has to exercise care in such matters. But it doesn't make the BJP communal, at least not on this count. If you have to reduce it to horrible communal identities, what is A.P.J.Abdul Kalam if not a Muslim? How can the BJP be called communal when its first choice for President is a very eminent and extraordinarily popular Muslim?

Now turn the spotlight on the Samajwadi Party. It is looking for a Muslim presidential candidate to suit its Muslim voters. Is that what its Muslim voters want? Probably not. The Samajwadi Party's voters, Muslims and non-Muslims, would want a good candidate as President, whether or not he is Muslim or Hindi or of another faith. But try telling that to the communally-fixated Mulayam Singh Yadav and his super confident son. The Samajwadi Party is playing votebank politics when it should know India has moved on.

And what about the JD-U? This writer has a better opinion of Bihar's chief minister, Nitish Kumar, but perhaps it is time to revise views. If the media is to be believed, Nitish prefers the Congress presidential candidates, Ansari and Pranab Mukherjee, to Kalam. Pranab is a different matter. But what is so infernally wrong about Kalam and so right about Ansari? The answer lies in Muslim voter perception. Muslim voters would prefer Ansari to Kalam. At least that is what JD-U leaders in the capital say. Is that for real?

If there is a straight contest today between Kalam and Ansari, the vice-president will lose hands down. Kalam stands for scientific rationality, achievement, success, hard work and integrity. Ansari is not less distinguished, but is no match for Kalam's popularity. In the end, JD-U and Nitish Kumar have to decide on their presidential candidate. But this Muslim fixation is unfortunate. Is Manmohan Singh to be then viewed as a Sikh prime minister? Will the next army chief be seen as a Sikh general?

The Congress party is certainly shamelessly communal. Its Uttar Pradesh campaign was outright sectarian. But what about the Left parties and particularly the CPI-M and its high-minded general secretary, Prakash Karat? Why should the Left narrow its presidential choice to a Muslim? Why can't it shortlist the best candidates regardless of their religion?

The idea should be to get the best man or woman into Rashtrapati Bhawan.

Once that becomes the benchmark, consensus will follow.

Finally, to the slightly unrelated issue of BJP internal elections. This important decision can no longer be delayed. The BJP has lost ground and is without direction, purpose and vision. Because it is the principal opposition party, that is bad news. A strong opposition is as necessary as a good government, and India lacks either.