BJP hopes many in Opposition will cast vote for Ram Nath Kovind

Six MLAs of the Mamata Banerjee-led TMC from Tripura have made it clear that they will not vote in favour of a CPI(M)-supported nominee'.

New Delhi: The Opposition bloc, which has fielded former Lok Sabha Speaker Meira Kumar against the BJP-led NDA presidential candidate Ram Nath Kovind, may face more trouble. Six MLAs of the Mamata Banerjee-led Trinamul Congress from Tripura have made it clear they will not vote in favour of a “CPI(M)-supported nominee”. Both the TMC and CPI(M), considered arch-rivals in West Bengal politics, are part of the Opposition bloc, which faced a jolt when the Nitish Kumar-led JD(U) decided to back the NDA nominee.

Interestingly, there are rumours that the six TMC MLAs who will take a final call on this matter soon, could join the BJP and are said to be in regular touch with saffron leaders. Many other TMC leaders, including its cadre, have already joined the saffron fold. The NDA candidate is already in a comfortable position as some non-NDA parties like the JD(U), YSRCP, AIADMK, TRS and INLD are also supporting Mr Kovind.

Speculation is rife that even Akhilesh Yadav’s SP could witness cross-voting as the Uttar Pradesh party is facing deep dissension. The BJP also feels that the presidential election, to take place on July 17, could see widespread cross-voting from the Opposition ranks, specially in UP and Bihar, in favour of the NDA candidate. A section in the SP that owes allegiance to party patriarch Mulayam Singh Yadav and his brother Shivpal Yadav, which has been sidelined by the party chief, is likely to vote in favour of Mr Kovind, who himself is from Uttar Pradesh. Mulayam Singh Yadav had also expressed his support for Mr Kovind.

A senior BJP leader said some of the BSP MLAs could also defy party supremo Mayawati’s support for the Opposition’s candidate and instead vote for Mr Kovind. The party, which now has 19 MLAs, faces an existential crisis since its drubbing in the recent Assembly elections in UP and there are reports that some MLAs are in touch with the ruling BJP and could join the saffron party. The SP, which has 54 MLAs in the 403-member UP Assembly, has five Lok Sabha MPs and 18 in the Rajya Sabha. The BSP has six members in the Rajya Sabha.

Sources said the BJP is also not ruling out cross-voting from the Congress and RJD camps in Bihar, as parties cannot issue a whip for the presidential election. RJD chief Lalu Prasad is working overtime to ensure that there is maximum possible voting in favour of Ms Kumar, he said.

Mr Kovind is a former Bihar governor. MPs and MLAs are free to vote as per their preference and it is not possible to find out an individual’s choice in the secret ballot.

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