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Presidential poll: Opposition tries hard to make a contest of a lopsided battle

The Congress-led opposition has pitched the election for India’s 14th President as a fight between ideologies and not a Dalit versus Dalit battle between NDA’s nominee Ram Nath Kovind and opposition candidate Meira Kumar.

india Updated: Jul 17, 2017 10:06 IST
Aurangzeb Naqshbandi and Kumar Uttam

The opposition is keen to make a match of Monday’s presidential election which looks like a one-sided contest that the ruling NDA’s nominee Ram Nath Kovind is expected to breeze through.

The Congress-led opposition is putting up a brave front to counter the perception that the contest is a mere formality. It has pitched the election for India’s 14th President as a fight between ideologies and not a Dalit versus Dalit battle. Both Kovind and opposition candidate Meira Kumar are Dalits.

“It’s not a symbolic fight… It will be a good, tough fight,” said CPI general secretary Suravaram Sudhakar Reddy.

Out of the total value of 10,96,004 votes, the opposition is eyeing around 400,000 and also is hopeful of cross-voting in the absence of a party whip. At the same time, the opposition parties are taking all steps to ensure there lawmakers don’t vote for Kovind.

It has a reason to be cautious. The Janata Dal (United), which leads the ruling coalition in Bihar, has already broken ranks to announce support for Kovind, the former state governor.

Fearing cross-voting, Trinamool Congress supremo and West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee has asked her party MPs to vote in the state capital Kolkata and not in Delhi as is customary.

Congress president Sonia Gandhi is meeting her party MPs in the Capital on Sunday and has also invited the members of Parliament from other opposition parties for an interaction later in evening.

As the Congress leader tries to fortify the opposition camp, the BJP-led NDA expects to make some inroads. It has tasted initial success, with six Trinamool Congress MLAs from Tripura supporting the NDA nominee.

The Trinamool’s Tripura unit defended the move, saying it decided to back the Kovind since the ruling CPM was supporting Meira Kumar.

Banerjee, who shares an acrimonious relationship with the NDA, is upset but there is little she can do about it.

The BJP leadership has also approached KM Mani, the Kerala Congress chief, and expects support from some of his MLAs. The Kerala Congress has six MLAs and one member in the Rajya Sabha.

“There are some states where we will get 100% of votes,” a BJP leader said, refusing to elaborate.

The party’s parliamentary party committee is to meet on Sunday evening and so are the members of Parliament from the NDA.

The factionalism within the Congress in Gujarat and Karnataka and growing trouble for the Trinamool in Bengal following a crackdown on chit-fund companies has the BJP hopeful of cross-voting.

The NDA, which has a brute majority in the Lok Sabha and BJP governments is several big states, is also buoyed by the support pledged by the Telangana Rashtra Samithi, the YSR Congress Party, the AIADMK and the Biju Janata Dal.

It’s complicated

The President is elected by an electoral college, which comprises elected members of the Lok Sabha, Rajya Sabha and state assemblies.

According to the Election Commission, the electoral college has 4,896 members this year.

The value of votes of all MPs is the same but that of an MLA differs from state to state. The value is arrived at through a complicated calculation in which the population of a state and the strength of its assembly play a crucial role.

For instance, a Tripura MLA’s vote has a value of 26 while that of Kerala is 152. A vote from Uttar Pradesh, which is country’s most populated state, is the most “valued” at 208.

Read| Ram Nath Kovind or Meira Kumar: Presidential election 2017 live updates