Virtually snubbed by the ruling National Democratic Alliance (NDA) over its candidate Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) chief Mohan Bhagwat for the post of President, the Shiv Sena on Friday threw up the name of agro-scientist M.S. Swaminathan for the top job.
In the same breath, Sena President Uddhav Thackeray also said that if the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) President has a good candidate, his party (Sena) would give it a thought.
He expressed the party's desire to have a "consensus candidate", who would be elected without a contest.
"If we want to make India a 'Hindu Rashtra', then Bhagwat is our first choice, first preference. But if anybody has objections to him, then Swaminathan should be made the President," Thackeray told media persons.
However, he added that "we are also known as a 'Krishi pradhan desh' and hence it is appropriate that we have a person like Swaminathan" as President.
Earlier, party MP Sanjay Raut demanded that Swaminathan's name be considered for President if the BJP was not ready for nominating Bhagwat.
The Sena statements came barely 48 hours before a Shah-Thackeray "summit" scheduled for Sunday morning to solicit and secure its support for an NDA candidate for the Rashtrapati Bhavan.
In fact, on at least two previous occasions, the Sena had jolted the NDA by supporting Congress nominees — former President Pratibha Patil in 2009 and later current President Pranab Mukherjee in 2012.
Swaminathan, 91, decorated with Padma Shree (1967), Padma Bhushan (1972) and Padma Vibhushan (1989), is acknowledged globally as "The Father of Green Revolution" of the 1960s, which catapulted the world's second-most populated country to self-sufficiency in food.
Currently, he is Emeritus Chairman of the M.S. Swaminathan Research Foundation, based in Chennai, which he founded in 1987.
Swaminathan was ranked by Time magazine among 20 Most Influential Asians of the 20th century, along with Mahatma Gandhi and Nobel laureate Rabindranath Tagore.
In 2014, he was made Chairman of the National Commission on Farmers, which submitted its report with recommendations on the agrarian crises in the farmlands across the country.