The Congress is confident that the UPA-Left vice presidential nominee Hamid Ansari will win with a convincing majority and the NDA and the Third Front will once again show up cracks as they did during the presidential elections. The ruling party hopes to get the support of 450 of the 782 Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha members who constitute the electoral college for the August 10 vice presidential polls.
To drive the advantage home, Congress strategists are working overtime to try and ensure that the divisions that surfaced in the NDA and the Third Front during the presidential elections are further deepened. To its glee, the three member JD(S) on Thursday said it would maintain equidistance from all three fronts in the election.
Besides the JD(S) there are another 20 MPs which have not yet committed their votes. They include the Telengana Rashtra Samiti, the Manipur National Front, the Nagaland People’sFront, and 10 unattached, independent and nominated members.
While the BJP was discomfited by the reluctance of allies like the Shiv Sena and the Trinamool to spell out their stand, Congress president Sonia Gandhi's dinner on Wednesday for MPs backing Ansari’s candidature provided an opportunity to the ruling combine to present a picture of unity and solidarity in the same manner as had happened in the case of Pratibha Patil's election as president. Every alliance partner and supporting party, including the BSP and the DMK, turned up for the occasion where Ansari was also present.
The ruling combine already has 441 committed votes and is trying to either neutralize or wean away some votes in the NDA, including those in the BJD and the JD(U) during the August 10 elections.
But to ensure that the MPs do not make any mistake while voting, Sonia took it upon herself once again to urge her MPs---who have been meeting her in batches---to be vigilant in this regard. A vote becomes invalid if a member overwrites or crosses the number "I" while marking his preference and placing it in the box. All MPs of the UPA and Left have bene advised against marking their second and third preference vote.
The winning candidate needs 392 of the 782 votes in the two Houses. Sources said that the ruling party’s objective is to ensure that Ansari’s margin of victory is more than 153 that Bhairon Singh Shekhawat had led with when he contested for the vice president’s post in 2002. At that time, 79 MPs had cross voted in Shekhawat’s favour.
According to Congress leaders, the BJP-NDA nominee Najma Heptulla’s tally on paper is around 247 and the Third Front’s Rashid Masood’s 68. These tallies would reduce if parties like the Shiv Sena and the Trinamool maintain the stand they took in the presidential election.
While the Congress is busy trying to increase Ansari’s margin of victory, the candidate himself has reached out to all MPs seeking their vote.