The fluid political situation at the Centre means the Congress-led UPA needs best coalition management efforts to get its candidate elected as the next President.
While the ruling dispensation is short of the halfway mark by 8% votes, the chances of the BJP-led NDA is slimmer as it has less than one-third votes.
The 12 non-UPA, non-NDA parties hold 24% votes of the electoral college. These regional parties are unlikely to vote collectively in one direction and will seek their pound of flesh in return for support. Out of this group, the SP and BSP enjoy premier slots with 1.12 lakh votes between them.Visits of party managers and potential candidates to power centres of regional parties such as Chennai, Patna and Kolkata have begun. The Congress brass has done its calculation on sources of additional support and is keeping fingers crossed on Mamata Banerjee. The Congress has also started placating its allies and supporters.
Parties are tight-lipped about their candidates, likely to be named at the last moment.
The possible scenario
1. The UPA needs 'vitamin M': Mulayam Singh Yadav, Mamata Banerjee and Mayawati. Armed with Mamata's support, if it ropes in SP and BSP, the UPA can mop up 52% votes.
2. If Samajwadi Party is not forthcoming, the UPA requires the BSP. Then, it needs to reach out to parties like AIADMK and BJD. These two parties with a total of 67,135 votes can compensate for SP's 68,812 votes.
3. If Trinamool and Sharad Pawar's NCP switch over to the other side, the UPA need to fall back on BSP, SP and the Left parties. That gives the ruling coalition 50.18% votes.
4. If SP, BSP and TMC decide to back a non-UPA nominee, the Congress still has a chance. It will have to secure the entire 6% vote of the independents and smaller parties and bag AIADMK and BJD votes.
5. The BJP-led alliance has a tougher job. It not only needs help from former allies BSP, AIADMK, BJD, TDP and JD(S) but also needs to bring SP and TMC on board. This grand alliance can ensure 51% votes.
Focus on consensus
Candidate needs to be acceptable to allies. UPA & NDA may spring surprises at the last moment. Pratibha Patil & APJ Abdul Kalam had both been surprise, consensus choices.
How the President is elected: The electoral college (the electors for the Presidential election) comprises the elected members of Lok Sabha, Rajya Sabha and state assemblies. Nominated MPs can't vote.
Weightage of MLAs' votes: Votes of the MLAs have different weightage, based on the state's population and the strength of the assembly. An MLA from AP has 148 votes while one from Punjab will have 116.
Polling procedure: An elector has as many preferences as there are candidates. He/she will accord preferences like 1, 2, 3, 4, and so on.
Possible candidates:Hamid Ansari
Strength: VP's elevation to the post of President is common. Being a Muslim, he may be acceptable to the SP - a key player.
Weakness: Apparently none, but parties may prop up issues to scuttle chances. May also face challenge from another key Muslim nominee. AK Antony
Strength: With his impeccable integrity, Kerala's Mr Clean can get support from some opposition quarters (like the Left).
Weakness: The recent controversies surrounding the army, of which he has been a part in his capacity as the defence minister, may take a toll. Pranab Mukherjee
Strength: Has goodwill across political lines. Nomination can fetch the extra votes UPA needs. Will easily be an unanimous choice.
Weakness: As the going gets tough for the UPA, Mukherjee seems to be needed more at North Block than at Rashtrapati Bhavan. Meira Kumar
Strength: Was the unanimous choice for Lok Sabha speaker's post in 2009. Being a Dalit and the daughter of Babu Jagjivan Ram may go in her favour.
Weakness: At 67, she seems too young to be the President. Gopal Krishna Gandhi
Strength: Being Mahatma Gandhi's grandson may help clear several hurdles. May emerge as the choice of Mamata Banerjee. Enjoys good equations with CMs Nitish Kumar, Naveen Patnaik and J Jayalalithaa.
Weakness: With general elections round the corner, the Congress may like to see a political face in Rashtrapati Bhawan. Shivraj Patil
Strength: Has an excellent equation with Sonia Gandhi despite his removal from the cabinet after the 2008 Mumbai terror attacks. Has not ruffled opposition feathers in his gubernatorial role.
Weakness: Will the Congress nominate another Patil and another Maharashtrian after Pratibha Devisinh Patil?