Allies themselves are acutely conscious of their increased bargaining power in selecting the UPA candidate, thanks to the changed composition of the electoral college for presidential elections.
Sources in UPA allies confirmed starting discussions on the presidential elections independent of the Congress. The Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) is quite clear on who we dont want, and we have already reached out to the Samajwadi Party on the issue of presidential polls, said a senior NCP leader. The party has made it clear that career Congressmen and women are not to be considered. This could be a blow to some aspirants to the job.
The party has sounded out some UPA ministers on their deliberations. The NCP, however, is not the only UPA ally getting restive Mamata Banerjee-led Trinamool Congress has its own ideas. A close aide of Banerjee said the West Bengal chief minister is particularly sensitive on this issue. It is a little-known fact that when the NDA decided on Dr Abdul Kalam as their presidential nominee, it was actually didi's idea. She never got credit for it, the aide claimed.
This time around, Banerjee is determined to put her stamp on the election. She has already sent out feelers to Samajwadi Party chief Mulayam Singh Yadav that they should combine their strengths and have their way on the matter. Kiranmoy Nanda, former West Bengal minister and now the president of the West Bengal unit of the Samajwadi Party, is playing mediator between the two leaders.
Former West Bengal governor Gopalkrishna Gandhi's name has already done the rounds for the UPA's presidential candidate, but as negotiations and deliberations proceed, this could change.
Another name being discussed is of former Jammu and Kashmir chief minister Farooq Abdullah, who is currently a Union minister. His selection could send all sorts of messages to the international community and even the domestic electorate.
As the allies of the UPA get proactive on the presidential polls, the Congress will need strategy, guile and an unbeatable candidate to have their own way.
To elect a president, the UPA (minus the Samajwadi Party and the Bahujan Samaj Party ) needs 5,48,507 votes. As of now, looking at the Parliament and state Assemblies, they have 4,50,555 votes.