NEW DELHI: The race to Raisina Hill has narrowed down to three contestants: former President APJ Abdul Kalam, Pranab Mukherjee and Hamid Ansari. Or a dark horse from the Towering Triumvirate: Mamata, Mulayam and Naveen, who will decide India’s next president in July. Dirty games are afoot; Congress leaders have started a vilification campaign against Didi, accusing her of using her vote as a high-value bargaining chip. Sources close to Mamata say she is annoyed at this perception; she is not purchasable even with Central funds. She has a mind of her own with prime ministerial ambitions herself post-2014. The trio, along with other powerful regional satraps, are seeking an independent president who will not play into any national party’s hands after the Lok Sabha elections.
THE KALAM FACTOR: The one person the Congress fears has the power to create a tsunami behind its back is NCP boss Sharad Pawar—he has friends in all parties. When he said last Sunday that an ‘apolitical’ person should be the Presidential candidate—which he later retracted—Sonia met him to evolve a ‘consensus’. Congress leaders understandably interpreted this as Pawar backing Kalam. Since Mulayam was partly instrumental in making Kalam President during NDA rule, the SP chief may be pushing for him yet again. More so, as both Mamata and Mulayam are said to be in favour of a candidate from the minority community. The Congress knows it is in no position to decide the next President; hence it is trying to evolve a ‘consensus strategy’ for a ‘neutral’ occupant in Rashtrapathi Bhavan when the general elections are announced: either in 2014, or maybe even before. BJP President Nitin Gadkari supports Pawar’s call. “I believe that the President of India must be a person who increases the respect of the country, a good person who can give direction to the country’s development, whether he is political or not,” he has said.
The Congress has less than 30 per cent votes while the non-BJP and non-Congress parties control over 40 per cent. As per rules a candidate has to poll 50 per cent plus one vote to be declared elected. The BJP will be happy to accept any candidate proposed by the regional parties. The Electoral College for Presidential elections consists of the Members of Parliament (MPs) and elected members of the State Legislative Assemblies (MLAs). The total electors for the Presidential election would be MLAs (4,120) and MPs (776). The value of the each MP’s vote is 708. The total value of the 4,896 (MPs and MLAs) electors for the Presidential elections is 10,98,882. The ruling UPA’s value of votes is 4,60,191. The NDA’s is 3,04,785. The Congress, on its own, has a strength of 3,30,485, the BJP 2,23,885. The Samajwadi Party has gained strength —it now controls 68,812—after the recent Uttar Pradesh polls. The Trinamool Congress has 48,049 and the BJD, led by Naveen Patnaik has 30,215. The combine of non-UPA and non-NDA parties together has a value of 2,62,408 votes.
CONGRESS CONFUSION: With the BJP waiting and watching, a ‘pure’ Congress candidate like Sushilkumar Shinde, Meira Kumar, Shivraj Patil or Karan Singh is ruled out.