The opposition is likely to put up its joint candidate for the vice presidential election and may decide on the name during its strategy meeting in Parliament on July 11. Sources said that the non-NDA parties are seeking to keep the opposition unity intact and feel that even if it is a losing fight it should not be left uncontested. The vice presidential contest is heavily stacked in favour of the ruling dispensation which has a majority of around 550 votes out of a total of 790 members of both Houses of Parliament, who comprise the electoral college for the vice presidential election. The electoral college that votes for the vice president, who is also the ex-officio chairman of the Rajya Sabha, consists of 543 elected and 2 nominated members of the Lok Sabha besides 233 elected members and 12 nominated members of Rajya Sabha.
Around 18 non-NDA parties are expected to attend Tuesday’s meeting convened by Congress President Sonia Gandhi in Parliament Library. The party’s vice chief Rahul Gandhi besides a host of leaders from other parties like the NCP, RJD, Left, TMC, SP, BSP, DMK and other smaller parties are also likely to attend. The parties are also likely to discuss the opposition floor management for the monsoon session of Parliament, which starts on July 17, as it comes in the wake of raids on RJD chief Lalu Prasad. “In the battle of ideologies, this is an election that the opposition should contest and it is likely to contest and should not be left uncontested,” said a senior leader. The sources said that though no name has yet been discussed, it is likely that some of the names that did the rounds for the presidential election may also figure for the post of vice president.
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These include names of Gopal Krishan Gandhi and Prakash Ambedkar, which the opposition was contemplating for fielding in the presidential election. Every party had been asked to give in their suggestions during the meeting. The opposition is likely to take a final call on the election during this meet. Sources added that there could be some informal discussions with some opposition leaders ahead of Tuesday’s meeting on the vice presidential candidate. CPI national Secretary D Raja said, “so far no names have have been given by the Congress or any other party. Since there is no time left, it is possible that a name may be finalised at the meeting.”
The term of present incumbent Hamid Ansari, who has held the post for two successive spells, comes to an end on August 10. The candidate of the ruling NDA, which has a majority in the Lok Sabha and received the support of parties such as the AIADMK and BJD for the July 17 presidential poll, is likely to win the contest, given its strength in Parliament. The scrutiny will take place on July 19 and the last date for withdrawing from the electoral battle is July 21. Polling, if required, will take place on August 5 and the votes will be counted on the same evening. No whip can be issued by political parties as the election is through a secret ballot.
The secretary general of the Rajya Sabha, Shumsher K Sheriff, is the returning officer for the election. During the last vice presidential election in 2012, Ansari secured 490 votes and Jaswant Singh, who was the opposition candidate secured 238 votes. In 2007, Ansari won the election secured 455 votes, while Najma A Heptulla secured 222 votes and Rasheed Masood secured 75 votes. In the 2002 vice presidential election, NDA nominee Bhairon Singh Shekhawat secured 454 votes, against opposition’s Sushil Kumar Shinde who secured 305 votes. Four Vice Presidents have so far been elected unopposed — first Vice President of India S Radhakrishnan (1952 and again in 1957), Mohammad Hidyatullah (1979) and Shankar Dayal Sharma (1987).