With the battle lines drawn for the July 19 presidential election, the focus is gradually shifting to the vice-presidential poll in August, for which incumbent M. Hamid Ansari appears to be a strong contender, Congress sources said on Saturday.
After having had its way on fielding finance minister Pranab Mukherjee as the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) nominee for the next president, the Congress appears keen to call the shots in the vice-presidential election as well.
Congress sources said that there was a possibility of Ansari getting a second term at the high post but other names were also doing the rounds. These included former union minister Mohsina Kidwai, the Rajya Sabha's former deputy chairman K. Rahman Khan and Jammu and Kashmir Congress chief Saifuddin Soz.
A party leader, insisting on anonymity, said that generally the vice president was chosen for the post of president if the same party continued in power. However, since Mukherjee was named for presidency, "I feel he (Ansari) may be renominated," the leader told IANS.
He said the Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M), which announced support for Mukherjee in the presidential poll, may back Ansari if he was renominated as vice-president.
Ansari was a common candidate of the UPA and the Left parties in the vice-presidential poll in 2007. His term comes to end Aug 10.
Congress general secretary Digvijay Singh, in a recent TV interview, praised Ansari saying he had conducted himself admirably as the vice-president.
At one point, Ansari was in the reckoning as the Congress choice for the post of president along with Mukherjee, who was eventually chosen as the official UPA nominee.
A party leader said that there was high probability of Ansari being re-nominated as the vice-president as he had missed the UPA's nomination as the presidential candidate.
Congress leaders said there was "sufficient time" to decide the vice-presidential candidate and an announcement was likely to be made after the declaration of the presidential poll result July 22.
The main opposition Bharatiya Janata Party is expected to chart its course warily in the vice presidential election as two of its allies in the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) broke ranks with it and declared their support to Mukherjee in the presidential poll.
The party decided to contest the presidential poll so as to not allow a "walkover" to the Congress and not to be seen as backing a nominee of what it has consistently called a "failed" government.
The name of Punjab chief minister Parkash Singh Badal was doing the rounds, initially, as a possible choice of the NDA in the vice-presidential poll.
BJP leader Jaswant Singh met Samajwadi Party chief Mulayam Singh Yadav earlier this month, fuelling speculation about his interest in the vice president's post.
The vice president is elected by an electoral college consisting of members of both houses of parliament, in accordance with the system of proportional representation by the means of the single transferable vote. The voting is by secret ballot.