New Delhi: The Congress will take a call on the Presidential polls after the Chintan Shivir scheduled in Udaipur next week.
While the grand old party has no strength of its own to defeat the yet to be named NDA nominee, all eyes are on the joint opposition candidate, as and when it is announced. However, the ruling coalition is short of votes to get simple majority and the 1,17,000 approx. votes of non-NDA and non-UPA parties can play the game in the elections.
A Congress leader said on condition of anonymity, “We are more focused on the Chintan Shivir now, and there is no serious discussion on presidential elections yet, though it may come up.”
Congress sources said that the party may go for a joint opposition candidate, which can test the opposition unity ahead of the 2024 Lok Sabha polls.
However, a Congress leader said that “the issue may come up in early June and Sonia Gandhi may call all the UPA partners to take a collective decision, but UPA will field a candidate for sure.”
Another Congress source said that the party can support a joint opposition candidate, but not a BJP nominee though it had supported APJ Abdul Kalam in 2002 despite the fact that he was a BJP contender. But that was the era of Atal Bihari Vajpayee, who was best at reaching out to the opposition.
Kalam won the 2002 presidential polls, defeating Left party candidate Lakshmi Sahgal. He was backed by the Congress, the Samajwadi Party and the Nationalist Congress Party.
Many feel that it’s not possible to come up with a joint opposition candidate given that many regional parties are likely to go with the BJP, including the BJD and YSRCP, which have good number of MPs in the Parliament.
The BJD has 12 Lok Sabha and nine Rajya Sabha members, which have 8,496 and 6,372 vote strength, respectively, while the YSRCP has 22 MPs with a vote strength of 15,576 in the Lok Sabha and 4,248 votes in the Rajya Sabha, which is enough to bail out the ruling party.
The biggest vote share among the regional parties is with the DMK, Trinamool Congress and the Samajwadi Party (SP). And the SP had supported Kalam in 2002, who was an NDA candidate.
The electoral college, comprising the majority of 776 MPs from both the Houses and 4,120 MLAs of all the states and Union Territories, has 1,098,903 votes, and a is 549,452 votes. As far as the value of votes is concerned, Uttar Pradesh has the highest number of votes, approximately 83,824, followed by Maharashtra and West Bengal.
The BJP has a majority in the Parliament, but in terms of big states, which are key to the presidential elections, its strength has reduced in Uttar Pradesh, while some other crucial states are ruled by the opposition parties, whose unity can pose a challenge for the saffron camp.
In fact, Trinamool supremo Mamata Banerjee has warned the BJP that the presidential elections will not be a cake walk for the BJP, as it doesn’t have even half of the legislators of the country.