New Delhi: The election for the next President of India, if one is needed, will be held on July 17, and votes will be counted three days later. President Pranab Mukherjee's term ends on July 24.
- BJP and allies have enough support to have candidate elected
- Congress leading efforts to arrive at united opposition candidate
- Voting on July 17, counting three days later, says Election Commission
The president is chosen through an electoral college of national and state lawmakers.
The BJP and its allies are positioned to win the election after Prime Minister Narendra Modi secured the support of regional parties like the TRS of Telangana which will cover the small shortfall in votes that the ruling coalition confronted.
The Prime Minister would like to choose a nominee acceptable to those parties. Among the reported contenders are cabinet ministers M Venkaiah Naidu, Sushma Swaraj, Thawar Chand Gehlot and Jharkhand Governor Draupadi Murmu. BJP chief Amit Shah said last month that his party will consult others but did not commit to a consensus candidate. "Consensus is a word that it is used in several ways. But we will hold discussions with everybody, including opposition parties," he said.
BJP sources have indicated that the party may prefer an election which would allow it to signal its strength ahead of crucial elections in states like Gujarat and Karnataka.
Some opposition leaders like Mamata Banerjee have pitched the idea that the government should attempt to nominate a candidate who most parties agree on - which would make an election unnecessary. But in parallel, Congress chief Sonia Gandhi has been leading negotiations with opposition parties to decide on a joint candidate. Several opposition leaders have backed the initiative and believe it will allow them to test how effectively they can work against the ruling BJP for the next general election in 2019.
The opposition will wait for the government to make the first move and in case the candidate is found to be unacceptable to them, a small group of leaders including Sharad Pawar and Ghulam Nabi Azad will help decide a presidential candidate to take on the ruling coalition.
Left leader Sitaram Yechury said that the opposition is working on a candidate for Vice-President too. "Tradition has been that the government consults opposition parties. That has not happened and we, the Opposition parties, will field somebody who will protect the ideals of the Constitution. Now that the notification has been issued, our efforts will become faster," he told reporters. "In the case of Vice President, we have decided to put up a political face even though the electoral college does not favour us," he added.