A new equation is emerging in the race for electing India’s next president — one that could have implication beyond the poll.Averse to any risk for the crucial election, the Congress has opened talks directly with the Left to create a consensus over the candidate for president and vice-president. A round of informal discussions has already taken place between a CPI(M) politburo member and a key Congress strategist in Rajya Sabha. Formal talks are likely after the Parliament session ends on May 22.
“We are expecting some talks with the Congress,” CPM’s Rajya Sabha leader Sitaram Yechury told HT. “We always maintain there should be the widest-possible consensus on the presidential candidate.”
The reason for the Congress to look Left is its worry over ally Mamata Banerjee’s “reliability factor”. She is currently miffed with the Centre for not providing a moratorium on interest repayment on her state’s staggering loans. Banerjee had said “all options are open” in the presidential race after meeting Sonia Gandhi earlier this month.
Should Banerjee drift away, the Left can more than compensate for it. It has 51,000 presidential votes compared to the Trinamool Congress’ 48,000. In Lok Sabha, the Left has 24 MPs to Trinamool’s 19.
Some months ago, the PM told CPM leaders he was “missing their advice” on policy issues. This latest move could also mean the Left could return to power play at the Centre at some point.
Another development — that could mean Pranab Mukherjee might not be the most preferred Congress candidate — is that the party is likely to discuss a few more names with allies and parties like the Samajwadi Party and BSP. It could also mean a surprise candidate. “We will first talk with allies, then like-minded parties,” a top Congress leader told HT on Tuesday.
Party sources also said a Muslim candidate — the names of chief election commissioner SY Quraishi, Rajya Sabha deputy chairperson Rehman Khan and party leader Saifuddin Soz are doing the rounds — is being considered for the vice-president’s post. This would weaken current V-P Hamid Ansari’s presidential chances.