The ruling Congress-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) coalition on Saturday decided Hamid Ansari will run for a second consecutive term for vice president. As an important political symbol, the announcement was made by none other than UPA chief Sonia Gandhi after a meeting of the coalition attended by Railway Minister and Trinamool Congress leader Mukul Roy, whose party is of late growing increasingly estranged from the Congress.
Just before the UPA meeting Prime Minister Singh telephoned veteran Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader LK Advani and Leader of the opposition in the Lok Sabha, Sushma Swaraj to solicit support for Ansari. However, the BJP leaders are understood to have bluntly refused the PM’s request. The BJP is upset with the manner in which Ansari, as Rajya Sabha Chairman, dealt with the Lokpal Bill debate in the house in December and abruptly adjourned the house sine die.
The Trinamool Congress is also unlikely to extend support for Ansari because he was backed for the post in 2007 by its biggest political foes, the Left parties. Trinamool Congress supremo and West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee had put forward the names of former West Bengal governor Gopal Gandhi and Subhash Chandra Bose's niece Krishna Bose but failed to muster support from the rest of the UPA. Banerjee is also likely to skip Sonia Gandhi’s dinner meeting for Congress allies on July 18.
However, Ansari enjoys high hopes victory even if the BJP-led NDA and Trinamool Congress decide to oppose him. This is because the electoral mathematics is in Ansari’s favor as he needs 396 votes to win from the electoral college of 790 votes. Even without Trinamool Congress, the UPA easily has 444 MPs—more than enough for Ansari to win. If the Samajwadi Party and the Bahujan Samaj Party also decide to support Ansari, which they are likely to, the UPA strength will cross the 500-mark for the vice-presidential election.
The last day for filing nomination for the vice-presidential election is July 20. The presidential poll takes place on July 19.