The Election Commission of India on Thursday announced the date to elect the new President of India. The ruling BJP-led NDA and the opposition are yet to reveal their choice of candidates.
As the present President Ram Nath Kovind’s term ends July 24, the Election Commission of India Thursday announced that polling to elect the country’s 15th President will be held on July 18, and the votes will be counted on July 21. The nominee of the NDA, which has around 48 percent votes in the Electoral College, will win the Presidential race, but the opposition is also gearing up which could be troublesome for the NDA and their friendly parties like the BJD of Odisha and YSRCP of Andhra Pradesh.
As per the source, Congress president Sonia Gandhi spoke to West Bengal Chief Minister and TMC leader Mamata Banerjee and NCP chief Sharad Pawar as part of efforts to find a consensus candidate. She has already spoken to other leaders like Sitaram Yechury of the CPM. It is learned that Gandhi told the leaders that Mallikarjun Kharge, Leader of Opposition in Rajya Sabha, would be the point person on behalf of her party for the elections.
Source also said that the consultations are on between like-minded parties to find a consensus candidate. But the Opposition, unlike in 2017, is badly divided. ‘There will be a contest for sure. And we will field a candidate who is acceptable to all,’ a senior Opposition leader said. Sources said top leaders of the Congress, Trinamool Congress, NCP, Shiv Sena, and the Left parties have exchanged notes. A formal meeting is yet to be scheduled. However, there is deep distrust between various parties. While the SP had backed former Lok Sabha Speaker Meira Kumar, the consensus Opposition candidate last time, it is to be seen what stance the party will adopt this time.
Similar is the case with the AAP which is in power in Punjab and Delhi. The AAP has been at loggerheads with the Congress, exchanging barbs and attacks almost every day. It has a little option as the party is stridently opposed to the BJP too. K Chandrashekar Rao’s TRS is not on talking terms with Congress. The TMC and the Left bloc too don’t see eye to eye.
The challenge, therefore, is to find a name that is acceptable to a wider majority in the Opposition camp if it has to put up a united and formidable fight. At least one Opposition leader said the candidate will not be from Congress or the TMC. ‘Backroom channels are working to at least bring all like-minded parties on the same page on contesting. The names will come later,’ a Left leader said.
According to the schedule announced by the Election Commission, the last date of nomination is June 29, and the counting of votes will take place on July 21. Election shall be held with the system of proportional representation through a single transferable vote. ‘The value of the vote of an MP will be 700. Those in preventive detention can vote and those in jail will have to apply for parole and if they get parole, they can vote,’ Kumar said.
The Secretary General, Rajya Sabha will be the Returning Officer for the elections, Kumar said that the MPs are expected to cast their votes in Parliament House and MLAs are expected to vote at respective state capitals.