Presidential poll: Congress keen on Sharad Pawar if NDA does not renominate Pranab Mukherjee

Congress managers are of the view that 76-year-old Sharad Pawar is a powerful and influential leader who could make it tough for the BJP.

india Updated: May 25, 2017 17:24 IST
Aurangzeb Naqshbandi
Aurangzeb Naqshbandi
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
Sharad Pawar,Presidential candidate,NCP
Congress hopes that Sharad Pawar will be able to muster support not only from the Shiv Sena, but also other non-aligned parties such as the BJD.(HT File Photo)

The Congress favours Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) chief Sharad Pawar as the opposition candidate for the upcoming presidential elections, hoping that the veteran politician will be able to garner support from a cross-section of political parties, including some BJP-led NDA constituents.

However, the main opposition party will support incumbent Pranab Mukherjee if the ruling side re-nominates him.

West Bengal chief minister and Trinamool Congress supremo Mamata Banerjee and her Bihar counterpart and Janata Dal (United) president Nitish Kumar have already stated that the National Democratic Alliance should give a second tenure to Mukherjee. His term ends on July 25 this year.

Bharatiya Janata Party sources, however, said the party is not in favour of another term for Mukherjee and would prefer to have its “own candidate” in the Rashtrapati Bhawan.

The NDA has an edge in terms of votes that form the electoral college, comprising elected MPs and MLAs, for the presidential polls. Out of the total value of 10,98,882 votes, the NDA has approximately 5,37,614 and the opposition’s strength stands at around 4,02,303 while roughly 1,59,123 are non-aligned.

India’s Presidents
Rajendra Prasad
Tenure: 1952-1962 From: Bihar
India’s first president was also its longest serving one. He was a professor and practicing lawyer.
Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan
Tenure: 1962-1967 From: Tamil Nadu
Radhakrishnan had an illustrious career as a teacher and was appointed as an ambassador to UNESCO.
Zakir Husain
Tenure: 1967-1969 From: Telangana
Husain was an educator and served as the Governor of Bihar. He had the shortest stint as President and died in office.
Varahagiri Venkata Giri
Tenure: 1969-1974 From: Odisha
Giri, who was Vice President, resigned and decided to contest as an independent candidate. Prime Minister Indira Gandhi then decided to support him.
Fakhruddin Ali Ahmed
Tenure: 1974-1977 From: Delhi
A lawyer and a cabinet ministe, Ahmed signed the proclamation allowing Indira Gandhi to impose the Emergency.
Neelam Sanjiva Reddy
Tenure: 1977-1982 From: Andhra Pradesh
Reddy served as a Lok Sabha speaker and the first CM of Andra Pradesh after incorporation of Telangana.
Giani Zail Singh
Tenure: 1982-1987 From: Punjab
Singh’s presidency was marked by Operation Blue Star, Indira Gandhi’s assassination, and the 1984 anti-Sikh riots.
Ramaswamy Venkataraman
Tenure: 1987-1992 From: Tamil Nadu
Venkataraman worked with four Prime Ministers - Narasimha Rao, Chandra Shekhar, Viswanath Pratap Singh and Rajiv Gandhi during his tenure.
Shankar Dayal Sharma
Tenure: 1992-1997 From: Madhya Pradesh
Sharma taught law at Lucknow University and at the University of Cambridge.
Kocheril Raman Narayanan
Tenure: 1997-2002 From: Kerala
India’s first Dalit president, Narayanan had worked as a journalist and served as ambassador in Japan, UK, USA, Thailand, Turkey and China.
A. P. J. Abdul Kalam
Tenure: 2002-2007 From: Tamil Nadu
One of India’s most popular presidents, Kalam was the first scientist to hold the post. He was also a prolific author.
Pratibha Patil
Tenure: 2007-2012 From: Maharashtra
Patil, who became the first woman to become India’s president, had previously served as a Governor of Rajasthan.
Pranab Mukherjee
Tenure: 2012-2017 From: West Bengal
The veteran Congress leader had served as a cabinet minister for defence, external affairs, finance and commerece, before being elected as India’s latest president.
Photos: Wikipedia | Graphics: Hitesh Mathur

If the BJP manages to retain its entire NDA flock, Prime Minister Narendra Modi will still require around 18,300 votes to ensure the victory of his choice. The NDA is likely to sail through comfortably if it secures the support of either AIADMK with 59,224 votes or the Biju Janata Dal (BJD) which has 32,892 votes. The two parties hold the key to the country’s top post.

Congress managers are of the view that 76-year-old Pawar is a powerful and influential leader who could make it tough for the BJP. They hope that Pawar will be able to muster support not only from the Shiv Sena, a key NDA constituent, but also other non-aligned parties such as the BJD.

In the past too, the Sena defied and broken ranks with the BJP-led NDA by supporting the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) candidates. It backed Pratibha Patil, a Marathi, in 2007 and then Pranab Mukherjee in 2012.

In its internal assessment, the Congress has suggested that the UPA will have to rope in regional outfits, non-NDA parties and even independent lawmakers to ensure that a “desirable candidate” is elected as the President.

“Only Pawar sahib is capable of that,” said a senior Congress functionary.

However, NCP spokesperson Nawab Malik said last week Pawar had rejected Congress president Sonia Gandhi’s offer to be the opposition candidate. Giving details, he said Gandhi had made the offer in her meeting with the NCP chief at her residence on April 27.

“But Pawar sahib refused and told Soniaji that he will work towards getting an opposition candidate elected as the President,” Malik said.

The NCP has 11 MPs and around 50 MLAs in different states across the country.

“We will have to persuade him (Pawar),” said another Congress leader.

Gandhi has been holding talks with opposition leaders on fielding a consensus candidate for the presidential elections.

Apart from Pawar, Banerjee and Nitish Kumar, she has so far discussed the issue with Samajwadi Party leader Mulayam Singh Yadav, Rashtriya Janata Dal chief Lalu Prasad, CPM general secretary Sitaram Yechury, Sharad Yadav of the Janata Dal (United), CPI’s D Raja and National Conference leader Omar Abdullah.

A meeting of the opposition leaders on the issue is expected to be held before they gather for the birthday celebrations of ailing DMK patriarch M Karunanidhi in Chennai on June 3.

First Published: May 23, 2017 12:35 IST