President of its choice? Congress will find it difficult

President of its choice? Congress will find it difficult

If the entire opposition gangs up, the ruling United Progressive Alliance (UPA) will find it difficult in July to elect a new president of its choice to succeed Pratibha Patil who completes her five-year term.

With a badly fractured polity, the Congress will need every vote it can muster to push its nominee, or one it is comfortable with, into Rashtrapati Bhavan.  And this will be no easy task -- thanks to the numbers game.

The electoral college for presidential election consists of  MPs and members of assemblies in 30 states and union territories. A pre-determined value is attached to each vote, based on the population determined by the 1971 census.

The Congress-led UPA has a thin majority in the Lok Sabha but its numbers are well below the half-way mark in the Rajya Sabha. Across the country, both UPA and its foes rule major states which command higher value of votes due to their population and number of legislators.  

Party sources said calculations showed that the cumulative strength of all non-UPA parties put together was slightly more than that of UPA. They said that if the entire opposition puts up a common candidate in the presidential battle, the UPA nominee was bound to face an uphill task.

Congress leaders said the forthcoming assembly polls were crucial to its prospects as the total value of votes of legislators across the five states (Punjab, Uttar Pradesh, Manipur, Goa and Uttarakhand) was almost a tenth of the total value of electors for presidential polls.

Pratibha Patil's term ends in July and that of Vice President Hamid Ansari in August this year. The Election Commission can issue  the notification for the presidential elections anytime after May 25. The total value of votes of legislators in the 2007 presidential election was 549,474 and that of MPs 549,408. The total value thus  was 1,098,882.  

This is the reason, the sources say, the Congress knows that it would need the backing of the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP), Samajwadi Party and Trinamool Congress to get a president of its choice.

How tricky this could be was proved in 2007 when the Congress had to give up on Karan Singh as its presidential candidate, because the Left, on which it was then dependent, would not agree to back him.

The Uttar Pradesh assembly has the largest value of votes among all states (83,824). Election Commission officials said the total strength of the electoral college in 2007 was 4,896 (4,120 legislators and 776 MPs). The formula will remain the same for the 2012 presidential contest.

Even as the Election Commission has begun preparatory work for the presidential elections, the Congress and the BJP officially say that they have yet to give serious consideration to who should succeed Patil as the republic's 13th president.

"It is too early," Congress spokesperson Raashid Alvi told IANS. The BJP's Ram Nath Kovind said a clear picture would emerge only after the results come from the five states March 6.

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