Presidential Election 2017: How parties are gearing up to elect Pranab Mukherjee's replacement

The Presidential Election is scheduled for 17 July. The incumbent Pranab Mukherjee's term will end on 24 July. As is now usual with Presidential elections, both the ruling coalition as well as the opposition parties have started negotiations to prop up a candidate who has a shot at winning. The calculations and the numbers which go into the Presidential election are complicated owing to the system used which incorporates proportional representation by means of single transferable vote.

The Opposition parties met on Wednesday to try to arrive at a consensus on a candidate. The leaders including Ghulam Nabi Azad and Mallikarjun Kharge from the Congress, JD-U's Sharad Yadav, RJD's Lalu Prasad, CPM leader Sitaram Yechury and NCP's Praful Patel, Derek O'Brien of the TMC, RS Bharathi of the DMK, Ram Gopal Yadav of the SP and Satish Chandra Misra from the BSP were present for the meeting.

File photo of Pranab Mukherjee. PTI

The Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) was kept out of the Opposition discussions to identify a presidential candidate after the Congress and Nationalist Congress Party struck down a proposal for the same, reported Times of India. The proposal to include AAP had been moved by CPM general secretary Sitaram Yechury and Trinamool Congress chief Mamata Banerjee in the last meeting in May attended by 17 opposition parties. It was shot down in Wednesday's meeting by NCP chief Sharad Pawar and Congress' Ghulam Nabi Azad, who cited the objectionable conduct of some AAP members as the reason for keeping them out of the discussions.

The BJP on the other hand has formed a three-member committee comprising Union ministers Rajnath Singh, Arun Jaitley and M Venkaiah Naidu for holding consultations with the NDA allies and the Opposition on the issue.

The committee has made overtures towards the Congress, CPM and other parties to start a consultation exercise. Indian Express reported that Naidu sent word to Congress president Sonia Gandhi and CPM general secretary Sitaram Yechury to initiate consultations. He also spoke to Praful Patel of the NCP and Satish Chandra Mishra of the BSP to fix up meetings with their party supremos: Sharad Pawar and Mayawati respectively.

The report further said that the NDA candidate will file the nomination papers on 23 June in the presence of Prime Minister Narendra Modi. The Opposition is expected to announce its joint candidate after 20 June, with the filing of nominations taking place around 24 June. At the Opposition strategy meeting, sources said, RJD chief Lalu Prasad and Yechury argued that they should field a candidate at any cost as it was an “ideological and political fight” against the BJP.

The NDA candidate

Sources say that Modi could give the nation it's first dalit-tribal duo for the posts of president and vice-president. The names of Kariya Munda, a former deputy speaker from Jharkhand, and Thawar Singh Gehlot, social justice minister in Modi’s cabinet and a Dalit leader from Madhya Pradesh are said to be leading candidates for the NDA. Jharkhand governor Draupadi Murmu is also in the fray for the post.

The other candidate who could land the post is current External Affairs Minister, Sushma Swaraj. News18 said that Swaraj meets every criteria laid down by the BJP top brass in addition to having the endorsement of the Sangh. Her name will figure in Friday’s talks between the NDA and the Opposition to build consensus ahead of the presidential elections. Swaraj is also the hot favourite because she could pull in votes from a few regional parties. Leaders like Mamata Banerjee and Naveen Patnaik will find it difficult to oppose her, according to a top BJP leader.

The Opposition candidate

Former West Bengal governor and Mahatma Gandhi's grandson Gopalkrishna Gandhi is reportedly the leading candidate for the Opposition. He is a retired IAS officer and diplomat. The Left parties in particular are said to be in favour of Gandhi. "We are thinking of proposing the name of Gopalkrishna Gandhi. He does not have an affiliation to any political party," sources in the Left parties said.

They added that the parties would also have no objection if JD(U) leader Sharad Yadav was picked as a candidate. "If Sharad Yadav's name comes up, we will have no objection. He is a senior Opposition leader... a man of integrity and honesty," a Left leader said on the condition of anonymity.

Potential candidates who have ruled themselves out

India Today said that the Shiv Sena had proposed the name of RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat for presidential candidate. According to Times of India, Sena considers Bhagwat the "most appropriate choice for the Rashtrapati's office if India is to be turned into a Hindu Rashtra,". However, Bhagwat has clarified that he is not in the race. While the Sena has not supported NDA's candidate in the last two elections, Amit Shah will meet Shiv Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray on Sunday to seek his support for the NDA candidate

Similarly, NDTV reported that Sonia Gandhi had requested Sharad Pawar of the NCP to stand for President but Pawar had ruled himself out as he felt that the opposition parties did not have the numbers to get their candidate elected.

Six candidates have already filed their nominations

On 14 June, the Election Commission had issued the notification for the presidential poll. On the first day, six nominations were received which included K Padmarajan from Salem in Tamil Nadu, who has earned the moniker of 'Election King' by contesting more than 150 elections. His name figures in the Limca Book of Records for being the "most unsuccessful candidate".

Padmarajan has contested against political bigwigs like J Jayalalithaa, M Karunanidhi, AK Anthony, PV Narasimha Rao, KR Narayanan, SM Krishna, Manmohan Singh (in Rajya Sabha polls) and President Pranab Mukherjee in the presidential election.

Others who filed their nominations were Anand Singh Kushwaha from Gwalior in Madhya Pradesh, A Bala Raj from Mahbubnagar in Telangana, Saira Bano Patel from Mumbai, Abdul Hamid Patel from Mumbai, and Kondekar Vijayprakash from Pune in Maharashtra.

With inputs from agencies


Updated Date: Jun 15, 2017 15:43 PM

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