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UPA, NDA to intensify battle over president

With the EC set to notify presidential election, both the UPA and NDA have stepped up efforts to place their candidate in Rashtrapati Bhavan.

india Updated: Jun 11, 2007 21:10 IST

With the Election Commission expected to notify the presidential election this week, both the ruling United Progressive Alliance (UPA) and the opposition National Democratic Alliance (NDA) have stepped up rival efforts to place their candidate in Rashtrapati Bhavan.

While Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has formally begun to canvass support for the UPA's choice of the next president, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is reaching out to the recently formed "Third Front" to gain support for Vice President Bhairon Singh Shekhawat, who is tipped to contest as an independent.

Manmohan Singh is expected to meet Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Mayawati on Tuesday. The support of Mayawati's Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) is very crucial for the UPA.

Although many UPA allies have declared support to a Congress candidate, both the prime minister and party president Sonia Gandhi are expected to officially convey the name of the nominee to them this week.

The Congress Working Committee, the apex decision-making body of the ruling party, has authorized Gandhi to nominate the candidate to succeed President APJ Abdul Kalam who retires next month.

Sonia Gandhi is believed to have picked Home Minister Shivraj Patil, a staunch Gandhi family loyalist, as the preferred Congress candidate. But the Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M)-led Left parties, which extend crucial support to the government, have reservations on Patil.

According to D Raja, a Communist Party of India leader, leaders of the four Left parties would meet Tuesday or Wednesday to take a final decision on the presidential elections.

The BJP, which has ruled out the possibility of supporting the UPA candidate for the top post despite appeals from Manmohan Singh, is intensifying efforts to consolidate the anti-Congress votes in favour of Shekhawat.

They are sounding out the newly formed eight-party front that includes the Samajwadi Party and AIADMK.

BJP leaders say that since Shekhawat has good equations with AIADMK chief and former Tamil Nadu chief minister J Jayalalitha, he could win their backing.

In the electoral college that accounts for 10,98,882 votes, the UPA candidate can easily get over 570,000 - the required votes to win the election - provided the BSP (58,300 votes) and Left (110,988 votes) chip in.

The electoral college is made up of MPs and legislators across the country. The value of a legislator's vote is decided on the basis of the state's population. An MP's vote value is 708.

In the current scenario, the NDA commands 354,689 votes and the "Third Front" claims 106,281 votes.

At their last meeting, Left leaders had expressed their disapproval of Patil and questioned his secular credentials.

Although the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) apparently too has some reservations over Patil, party chief and Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar is now believed to have conveyed his support to the latter.

External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee has been consulting allies along with Defence Minister AK Antony and Congress leader Ahmed Patel.

First Published: Jun 11, 2007 19:26 IST