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Presidential election: Will Opposition parties reach a consensus on contesting unitedly?

The election is to be held on July 18 as the term of the present incumbent ends on July 24.

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New Delhi: Parleys have started to bring all Opposition parties together to contest the Presidential election unitedly.

The ice has been broken by the Trinamool Congress president Mamata Banerjee who held a long meeting with the Nationalist Congress Party chief Sharad Pawar.

The meeting, sources in both the NCP and TCP, is a preliminary meeting aimed at working out on a consensus candidate.

The election is to be held on July 18 as the term of the present incumbent ends on July 24.

Both the Trinamool Congress and Congress are keen  to convince  Sharad Pawar to be the consensus candidate of the Opposition, the Maratha strongman is reported to be reluctant to contest. Even at the time of the last election, he had refused to be the consensus candidate.

Sharad Pawar (81) had reportedly told his confidants that he was not keen to contest for the top post. It all depends whether Mamata Banerjee and other Opposition leaders can prevail upon him and convince him to be the consensus candidate.

The ruling BJP-led NDA alliance is  also yet to announce its candidate for the top post.

Last time the BJP had sprang a surprise by announcing Ram Nath Kovind, a Dalit, as its candidate. What strategy BJP adopts in this election remains to be seen as it may impact the 2024 general  elections. Will the BJP go for a candidate from minorities to negate the criticism it has been facing over the controversial remarks made by one of its spokespersons in a TV debate last month?

Mamata Banerjee has taken upon herself the onerous task of bringing all opposition parties together. She has already arrived in the union capital. And her first stop was meeting with the NCP chief, Sharad Pawar, at the latter’s residence on Tuesday evening.

She has called a meeting of eight non-BJP chief ministers and top opposition stalwarts on the issue tomorrow.

The opposition parties have been mostly rallying behind Mamata Banerjee. Most of the parties, including the Left, are in consonance with the unanimous choice of Sharad Pawar. Even the Congress President Sonia Gandhi had deputed the leader of Opposition in Rajya Sabha, Mallikarjun Kharge, to visit Sharad Pawar and convince him to be the consensus candidate.

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With Sharad Pawar adamant to contest, the Opposition parties may consider other names that are acceptable to all for a consensus candidate.

There is a unanimity that the candidate for the presidential election should be strong and acceptable to all. Opposition leaders are reportedly deliberating upon names of strong  nominees to contest as their joint candidate. Decision on choice of candidate may come after Mamata Banerjee meets all Opposition leaders and Chief Ministers of non-BJP governments  on Wednesday.

The electoral college for the presidential elections comprises 4,809 members, that includes 233 Rajya Sabha and 543 Lok Sabha members, and 4,033 MLAs of State Assemblies.

Each member has a certain vote value based on the strength of the population he or she represents.

According to the schedule, voting will be held on July 18. The total value of the votes that will be up for grabs is: 10,86,431.

The BJP-led NDA, based on its present strengths, has  5,25,706 votes, around 20,000 votes short of the majority mark.

As of now, the possibility of the BJP-led NDP nominee  occupying the Rashtrapati Bhavan  looks strong.

BJP president J.P. Nadda and Union Defence Minister Rajnath Singh  have been authorised to hold consultations with the NDA partners, UPA constituents and Independent MPs regarding the Presidential election.

Of the State parties, both the Biju Janata Dal with 31,686 votes and the YSR Congress with 43,450 votes have conveyed to the BJP-led NDA government  their wholehearted support. The Odisha CM Naveen Patnaik, on May 30, and YSR Congress chief and Andhra Pradesh CM Y.S. Jagan Mohan Reddy, on June 2, met the PM, reportedly committing their votes to the BJP’s choice for the highest office.

The Shiromani Akali Dal has not opened its cards for the Presidential election.Its role has been limited because of its humiliating debacle in the last Assembly elections where it ended with only two seats.

Of course, the role of Aam Aadmi Party would be watched with tremendous interest as it has 10 members in Rajya Sabha besides being the ruling party in both Delhi and Punjab. In both the assemblies, it enjoys more than two-third majority.

Prabhjot Singh

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