Signs Of Sharad Pawar As Opposition's Choice For President

The Congress has reportedly conveyed its support to Sharad Pawar for President.

The Congress has reportedly conveyed its support to Sharad Pawar for President. File

New Delhi:

The opposition's search for a Presidential candidate has picked up pace with a series of meetings and phone calls in the run-up to the election next month. With these discussions pivoting around former Union Minister Sharad Pawar, there is speculation that he could be the opposition's pick for India's top post.

Sharad Pawar's Maharashtra allies Congress and Shiv Sena are reportedly on board with the idea.

Senior Congress leader Mallikarjun Kharge met with Sharad Pawar last Thursday, with a message from party chief Sonia Gandhi. The two met at Mr Pawar's Mumbai home "Silver Oaks", say sources.

The NCP leader has been noncommittal so far.

On Sunday, Mr Pawar received a call from Sanjay Singh, a leader of Arvind Kejriwal's Aam Aadmi Party (AAP).

Mallikarjun Kharge also spoke with Shiv Sena chief and Maharashtra Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray, and Tamil Nadu Chief Minister MK Stalin.

Significantly, the Congress also reached out to Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, who has called for an opposition meeting at the Constitution Club in Delhi on Wednesday to discuss a joint strategy for the presidential election. Mr Kharge reportedly spoke to Ms Banerjee recently.

Elections will be held on July 18 for the next President of India and counting, if needed, will be held three days later. President Ram Nath Kovind's term ends on July 24.

Mr Pawar, one of India's seniormost and - many say, craftiest - politicians, has been credited with making and breaking many alliances and coalition governments over the past few decades.

He was the creator of Maharashtra's ruling coalition, bringing together ideologically opposed parties Shiv Sena, NCP and the Congress together to thwart the BJP's bid for power.

The BJP has authorised its party chief JP Nadda and Union Minister Rajnath Singh to hold discussions with parties across the spectrum and steer them towards a consensus.

In 2017, the BJP had nominated Rajnath Singh and Venkaiah Naidu for a similar outreach. Later, Venkaiah Naidu was named the NDA's Vice Presidential candidate.

If there is no consensus, the BJP will prepare for an election, sources say.

The presidential polls are based on an electoral college comprising the votes of MLAs and MPs. Some 4,809 electors - both MPs and MLAs - will vote to elect the new President of India.

The vote value of each MLA depends on the population of a state and the number of assembly seats.

The total strength of the electoral college is 10,86,431. Any candidate who crosses 50 per cent votes, wins.

The BJP and its allies are 13,000 votes short of the majority mark.

In 2017, the ruling coalition had the support of the Telangana Rashtra Samiti (TRS) of K Chandrashekhar Rao, the YSR Congress of Jagan Reddy and the BJD of Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik.

In a critical difference this time round, Telangana Chief Minister Chandrashekhar Rao, or KCR, is leading efforts to gather opposition forces to take on the BJP jointly.