The Congress and other opposition parties have almost given up on the faction-ridden AIADMK but will try to rope in the Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP) disgruntled allies Shiv Sena and Shiromani Akali Dal.
“The support from Sena and Akalis will depend on the who our candidate is,” CPI(M) general secretary Sitaram Yechury said.
Yechury pointed out that the Sena had supported Congress’ Pratibha Patil against the BJP’s candidate in 2007 presidential polls.
The opposition camp is also desperate to open a channel of communication with Biju Janata Dal (BJD) chief Naveen Patnaik, considered a key fence-sitter. A senior non-Congress leader has been entrusted to negotiate with him.
The party is banking on the BJD, which had announced PA Sangma’s candidature in the 2012 presidential poll because it has recently turned aggressive towards the BJP.
“As Patnaik’s BJP is fighting Congress in its state, he is unlikely to respond to any direct calls from the Congress,” said a Congress leader.
Top sources in the opposition camp told Hindustan Times that if the NDA government proposes the name of President Pranab Mukherjee, who may have a very slim chance for a second term, as the next President, Congress and partners will not oppose it.
“Certainly, being an incumbent president he will not fight an election. But if there is a consensus around his name, it will be a different situation,” said an opposition party leader.
The Congress, on its own, is unlikely to propose his name, said a senior party strategist involved in the negotiations for the upcoming presidential election in July.
“His name is not on our first list. But if the government is keen to build a consensus, we will not object to his candidature,” said the Congress strategist.
Rumours are rife that the BJP may propose Jharkhand governor Draupadi Murmu’s name as the next president. Murmu, a tribal woman from Odisha, enjoys the support of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh - the BJP’s ideological mentor.
The presidential election has to be held before July 24, when President Mukherjee’s term ends. He had taken over the post in July 2012, defeating the NDA candidate late PA Sangma.