The Congress pick could be a Muslim.

Leaders of Left parties have been holding informal consultations over the electoral battle due in August. The Left has said it would begin the exercise of finding a ‘widely accepted’ candidate Thursday.

The Left, which was keen to evolve a consensus on a vice president between the UPA and the eight-party United National Progressive Alliance (UNPA) to isolate the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), appeared embarrassed at the latter named its own vice presidential candidate Monday.

Left leaders privately admit they are unhappy at UNPA’s announcement that Samajwadi Party MP Rashid Masood would contest the vice presidential election, which is likely to be a triangular fight now.

The BJP-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) has given indication that it might field Najma Heptullah, Rajya Sabha MP and former deputy chairperson of the upper house, for the post.

‘If so, the Congress also might prefer a Muslim candidate,’ said the leader. Both Masood and Hptullah are Muslims.

According to Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) general secretary Prakash Karat  that the Left would not mind supporting a ‘non-political’ person for the post of vice president, who will also be chairperson of the Rajya Sabha.

Although many names, mostly of Left intellectuals, are doing rounds as possible candidates, Congress sources indicated that the party was not in favour of ceding the posts of presiding officers of both the Rajya Sabha and Lok Sabha to the communists.

Somnath Chatterjee, a CPI-M veteran from West Bengal, presides over the Lok Sabha.

Unlike in the electoral college for presidential election, state legislators will note vote in the Aug 10 vice presidential poll. Only MPs take part in the exercise.

The combined strength of the two houses is 790 MPs. While the Lok Sabha has 543 members, there are 233 members in the Rajya Sabha. There are 12 nominated members in the upper house and two in the lower house.

The UPA, Left and Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) together will have a clear majority in the vice presidential election. But with UNPA deciding to have a candidate of its own, smaller groups, independents and nominated MPs will decide who to vote for.

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