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BJP to sound out Opposition parties on consensus Prez

The BJP will talk to all political parties in the "true spirit of democracy" to evolve a broad consensus on the presidential nominee, Union Minister Venkaiah Naidu said on Tuesday after party chief Amit Shah met him and Finance Minister Arun Jaitley.

Naidu, however, "appealed to all that they should go by the mandate of the people which is for this government", in what is seen as a subtle message to Opposition parties to be agreeable to the BJP-led NDA's choice for the top constitutional post.

Besides Naidu and Jaitley, Home Minister Rajnath Singh is another member the three-member committee constituted by Shah on Monday to consult BJP allies as well as Opposition parties to evolve a consensus over the presidential poll.

"We have started internal consultations. We are the ruling party and we have to take everyone on board and work towards evolving a broad consensus and seek their support," Naidu told reporters.

BJP sources said all three committee members will speak to different parties. Jaitley shares a warm relationship with several Opposition leaders and Naidu and Singh too have good equations with various non-BJP parties.

The committee will also work to ensure that they gather enough support from regional parties to put the BJP-led NDA in the winning position in case Opposition parties put up a joint candidate and force a contest.

The ruling block already enjoys a numerical advantage in the electoral college.

The opposition parties will meet today to formally begin discussions on the presidential and vice presidential elections.

Congress President Sonia Gandhi has initiated moves to bring the opposition on a common platform.

Gandhi had earlier convened a luncheon meeting of opposition leaders which brought together leaders from 17 parties.

She set up a 10-member sub-group of representatives from opposition parties to take forward the deliberations.

The process for electing India's 13th President will be formally set in motion today when the Election Commission issues a notification paving the way for the filing of nominations for the July 17 contest.

The electoral college for choosing the President consists of 4,896 voters. While the Lok Sabha has 543 voters and the Rajya Sabha 233, the overwhelming majority (4,120) come from state assemblies - MLAs.
The total value of votes in the election is 10,98,903 -- 5,49,408 for MPs and 5,49,495 for MLAs.

The value of each vote of an MP is 708 but this differs for MLAs from state to state. The value of an MLA's vote in Uttar Pradesh is the highest (208) and the least (7) in Sikkim.

The NDA is short of the half-way mark by about 18,000 votes. But it expects to gain the support of many smaller parties besides all the factions of the feuding AIADMK which alone has a vote value of over 26,000.
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