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Race to the Rashtrapathi bhavan

Pranab Mukherjee’s tenure as President will come to an end on July 14, and the election has to take place before that.

Opposition leaders will be meeting on Friday at Parliament Library Building to decide on a joint candidate for the upcoming presidential poll. The talk of a consensus candidate gained momentum after Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar backed a second term for incumbent Pranab Mukherjee, though the Congress so far has been non-committal on a second term for him.

According to reports, efforts are underway to bring political rivals Samajwadi Party and Bahujan Samaj Party on the same page. BJD chief Naveen Patnaik is also expected to be approached for the same. With an aim to present an united front, senior opposition leaders are likely to meet SP chief Akhilesh Yadav, BSP supremo Mayawati and Patnaik over the next few days.

Meanwhile, the BJP-led NDA is still short of 20,000 electoral college votes to see its candidate hold the top constitutional post, despite winning assembly elections in Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand.

Former West Bengal governor Gopal Krishna Gandhi, ex-Lok Sabha speaker Meira Kumar and JD(U) veteran Sharad Yadav are among the names of the Opposition nominees doing rounds in political circles. Yadav, however, has said he would not contest the poll.

After meeting key players like Pawar, Nitish, CPI-M general secretary Sitaram Yechury, CPI leader D Raja and West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, Congress president Sonia Gandhi is likely to hold talks with some other leaders this week.

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