NEW DELHI: Finally the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh is just a step away from having its own candidate in Rashtrapati Bhawan. And Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Bharatiya Janata Party President Amit Shah are working around the clock to ensure that the alma mater has its way. Names are afloat, as are probables but no one really knows which rabbit will be pulled out of the hat as it were, with the “real” names being kept a closely guarded secret.

The BJP, after Uttar Pradesh,is confident of the numbers to secure an easy victory for its candidate. It has its allies close behind it. And sees no reason to even look at the Opposition parties for help, except of course the AIADMK that is currently struggling to survive as a whole entity. It knows two individuals it certainly does not want, the present incumbent Pranab Mukherjee who despite being close to the Ambani’s has never really been able to ingratiate himself---as a former Congressman---into the Sangh’s trusted books. And of course Vice President Hamid Ansari who like Mukherjee, will be retired by July-August this year.

However, eyes are currently on Congress president Sonia Gandhi who is not being allowed to retire by her aides---despite continuous rumours about her ill health from within---and is now said to be spearheading an Opposition effort to set up a united candidate for the Presidential polls. This is more to give a good fight, and as a Congress leader said, “who knows even to win if the NDA allies are not happy with the RSS choice…” Others though are not looking at victory, but just at a good fight, to one, bring about new unity amongst the scattered Opposition parties; and two, give the BJP a run for its money.

The entire Opposition is expected to meet for DMK leader M Karunanidhi’s birthday in Tamil Nadu on June 3 and this is expected to give Sonia Gandhi’s current efforts final shape. Currently, the DMK, Trinamool Congress, Left parties, Bahujan Samaj party, Janata Dal (U0, Janata Dal (S), Rashtriya Janata Dal, National Conference are on board. Talks are on with the Samajwadi party where Akhilesh Yadav is working hard to gain full control over the party---having sacked his uncle Shivpal Yadav’s loyalists--- in a recent move, and with Biju Janata Dal. Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik who had opted out of politics outside his state, is now stirring as he senses threat in the state elections from the BJP.

The Opposition also has a first name for President, Gopal Gandhi but the Congress is quite prepared to jettison him if any of the political parties do not agree, and a more acceptable leader can be found. There is a search on for names, but interestingly there is no resistance to the initial idea that the President be a person of letters, and not a politician per se. This is seen as a step forward for the Congress that has always tried to get in its own members into the head of state post. And is also now not looking at nobodies to fill the post, unlike some of its choices for President in the past. Loyalty for once, is not going to be the criteria with Sonia Gandhi now looking to get the Opposition together on this issue.

Interestingly, the effort will be to speak with AIADMK as well. Sources said that all Opposition parties had realised the importance of being united, win or lose these polls. And that old rivalries in the state cannot be allowed to mar this unity. If the AIADMK agrees, the Opposition can certainly look at the contest with some hope. If not it is prepared to run an election campaign to highlight the tenets of the Constitution at different levels.

The RSS on the other hand, is driving the Presidential polls along with PM Modi and Shah. The effort is to get out of party legislators support so that its choice for the post can win with a handsome margin, and thereby negate the past during which the organisation has been banned thrice by different governments. For the RSS the election is crucial, and as the sources said, “the BJP will leave no stone unturned to win.”