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  India   All India  20 Feb 2017  Opposition makes push for non-NDA President

Opposition makes push for non-NDA President

Published : Feb 20, 2017, 1:25 am IST
Updated : Feb 20, 2017, 6:36 am IST

Nitish meets Yechury, other major leaders; efforts to reach out to Akalis and Shiv Sena too.

Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar (Photo: PTI)
 Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar (Photo: PTI)

New Delhi: The BJP’s dream of getting the first saffron candidate elected as President of India may run into trouble if the results of the Assembly elections in the five states are not up to its expectations. The Opposition parties have kept the channels of communication open not only among themselves but also with fence-sitting NDA constituents like the Shiv Sena and the Akali Dal to prop up a rival nominee in case the BJP fares badly in the ongoing polls.

The President of India is chosen by an electoral college that comprises the elected members of both Houses of Parliament, as well as elected members of the Legislative Assemblies of all 29 states and elected members of the Assemblies of Delhi and Puducherry.

The results of the ongoing Assembly elections are crucial as the BJP is short of numbers in the electoral college that will pick the next President.

The presidential election is held in accordance with the system of proportional representation by means of the single transferable vote, which means that a strong show by the BJP in the Assembly polls, particularly in Uttar Pradesh, where MLAs’ votes have a total value of 83,824, may give it the political leeway needed to pick its own nominee or a saffron candidate.

The initiative to embarrass the BJP in the presidential polls to be held in July has been taken by Bihar CM Nitish Kumar. On a visit to New Delhi earlier this month, Mr Kumar met CPI(M) general secretary Sitaram Yechury as well as leaders of the CPI and the Indian National Lok Dal. “Channels of communication have also been opened with the Shiv Sena and Akali Dal,” sources told this newspaper.

The Shiv Sena is locked in a bitter turf war with the BJP in the Maharashtra civic polls. The Sena had also joined the Opposition parties led by the Congress and Trinamul Congress in a march to Rashtrapati Bhavan earlier to protest against the demagnetisation drive.

The alliance between the Akali Dal and the BJP also had its own set of problems, The Opposition parties are keen to exploit this, more so if the ruling coalition fares badly in the Punjab Assembly polls.

Other Opposition parties like Trinamul Congress, though in principle are supporting the move, have not yet come out into the open because of differences between Mr Kumar and Trinamul supremo Mamata Banerjee.

The sources said the Congress has also been contacted and the parties have got a favourable response from it.

The electoral college through which the President is elected comprises 4,896 legislators — 776 Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha members, and 4,120 MLAs. While MPs have an equal vote value, that of MLAs varies according to the population of the state. Each MLA’s vote carries a value proportionate to the population of the state as per the 1971 census.

Of 10,98 lakh votes in the electoral college this time, the majority mark will be 5.49 lakh votes. The BJP has 282 Lok Sabha members and 1,126 MLAs. Twelve states have BJP-led governments, but the party is out of power in populous states like UP and Bihar. In UP, which is the country’s most populous state, the value of an MLA’s vote is 208. As for the remaining poll-bound states, the value of an MLA’s vote is 116 in Punjab, 64 in Uttarakhand, 20 in Goa and 18 in Manipur. The NDA requires around 75,000 more votes to ensure that its candidate wins the election.

In the 2012 presidential polls, both J. Jayalalithaa and Naveen Patnaik, along with the BJP, had supported Purno A. Sangma against Pranab Mukherjee, the UPA’s candidate.

The BJP suffered a setback in 2015 when it lost the Assembly polls in Bihar and Delhi. Improving its tally in the elections being held now and early next year will also help the ruling party gain the upper hand over the Congress-led Opposition in the Rajya Sabha, where a number of key bills are stuck as the government is in a minority.

Tags: president, opposition, shiv sena, nitish kumar, sitaram yechury
Location: India, Delhi, New Delhi