New Delhi: The race for choosing a consensus candidate for Rashtrapati Bhawan is getting hotter. In order to build a consensus for its candidate and garner support from the DMK, Congress president Sonia Gandhi will be sending her representative to M Karunanidhi.
Sources say the Congress’ first choice for President is present Vice-President Hamid Ansari. The party is trying to build a consensus around him.
Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) chief Lalu Prasad Yadav today pitched for Mr Ansari, giving further momentum to the debate over Presidential candidate. “Our Vice-President Hamid Ansari should be made the President. He is a good candidate for the President’s post. He should be upgraded as the President,” he told reporters.
Meanwhile, in an interesting development, former West Bengal Governor Gopalakrishna Gandhi met Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik in Bhubhaneswar, fuelling speculation that the visit was linked to Presidential polls. Mr Gandhi was treated to a perfect Odia lunch and spent nearly two hours with the BJD supremo.
There are speculations that Mr Gandhi could jump into the fray.
Mr Gandhi, who is on a two-day visit to Odisha, will attend a university function in Mayurbhanj district on Wednesday. Talking to NDTV, Mr Gandhi said he would not respond to ‘speculations’ and said it was simply a courtesy visit to an old and valued friend’s house.
Presidential elections will be held in July and the UPA has to depend on other parties as it does not have required numbers to elect a President on its own strength. The last day for filing the nomination if May 24.
Other parties are, meanwhile, keeping the cards close to their chest. Samajwadi Party chief Mulayam said they have not yet decided on any name for the Presidential candidate, distancing himself from the comments made by party colleague Shahid Siddiqui yesterday who had favoured APJ Abdul Kalam. “It may be his personal view but the party has not decided yet,” Mr Yadav said. From its huge victory in Uttar Pradesh recently, the SP gets to the table a sizeable number of votes in the Electoral College that elects the President of India.
His bete noir and BSP chief Mayawati said in Delhi that her party will wait and watch.
BJP leader Rajnath Singh said, “We do not want to comment on any individual. But our view is that there should be a consensus among all political parties on the candidature of the President.”
JD(U) leader Sharad Yadav also refused to comment on any name for the Presidential candidate, saying, “let’s first hold talks on the issue.”
The race for Rashtrapati Bhawan has resulted in most unlikely of political friendships. There are reports that Samajwadi Party and the Trinamool Congress may join hands for the Presidential polls. Mr Kiranmay Nanda, a Samajwadi Party leader from West Bengal and a Rajya Sabha MP met West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee last Tuesday for over an hour. He is believed to have discussed alignment for the Presidential elections to be held in June this year to find a successor to Pratibha Patil.
This could be one more Mamata headache for the Congress, which leads a government at the Centre that needs all its allies and any other support it can gather to make up numbers to put its candidate in the Rashtrapati Bhawan, if it comes to a contest.
The UPA does not have a majority in the electoral college that elects the President – the Congress on its own has 31 per cent of the total votes and the UPA as a whole is estimated to have 40 per cent. The NDA does not have a majority either – the BJP has about 24 per cent on its own and the NDA has 30 per cent votes.
The Congress has also for some time now been looking at Mulayam Singh’s Samajwadi Party as a potential alternative big ally to Mamata Banerjee, who has not been a very supportive partner at the best of times.
How the President is elected:
An electoral college of all elected MPs and MLAs of all state legislatures elect the President. India has 776 MPs and 4120 MLAs. Each MP’s vote has a value of 708, an MLA’s vote value differs from state to state. Total value of votes of all 4,120 MLAs is 5,49,474. Total value of votes of all 776 MPs is 5,49,408.