New Delhi: The countdown to the President poll has begun with the Congress facing testing times and struggling to get the numbers in the Rajya Sabha. While the Samajwadi Party is pitching for Dr APJ Abdul Kalam, the NCP wants an apolitical candidate. A worried Congress has now said that it would try and build a consensus but with the emphasis on a non-political person as the next President, finding a candidate may not be easy.
With the Lok Sabha polls two years away, the Congress would want a President of its choice. In coalition politics every election including that of the President becomes a prestige battle. The Congress would want a consensus candidate of their choice. This, however, may be difficult.
The Congress has 31 per cent of total votes while the BJP has 24 per cent of the electoral college which votes the President. The UPA has a little over 40 per cent, unlike the last time when it had 57 per cent. Its share has fallen with poor results in state polls. The NDA has less than 30 per cent. So, the support of TMC, SP, AIADMK and BSP becomes crucial.
NCP chief Sharad Pawar set the cat among the pigeons by saying that the next President should be apolitical. He later clarified that he meant that the canidate must be agreed to by all.
But reaching this consensus may not be easy. Several names are doing the rounds - Pranab Mukherjee, Meira Kumar, Hamid Ansari - but it's former president APJ Abdul Kalam who seems to be emerging as the frontrunner, also fitting the criteria of a non-political president.
The final call will be taken by the Congress core group. But the Congress may have to bend to demands from allies like TMC and SP to get them on board. Mamata Banerjee, for instance, wants interest to be waived on loans. Congress may agree to this to win her over.
With a poor show in Assembly polls, inadequate numbers in the Rajya Sabha and a ganging up of allies and opposition parties, the Congress knows that it is no longer possible to get their own person in the Rashtrapati Bhawan.