The Congress Parliamentary Board met on July 11, 1969, to discuss the presidential candidate. The Syndicate had already decided on nominating Sanjiva Reddy, whose affinity to them was well known. Mrs Gandhi was naturally loath to do so. At the meeting, she suggested nominating the veteran dalit leader, Jagjivan Ram. When this was shot down, she asked that they postpone a decision to allow more time for arriving at a consensus. Nijalingappa, however, forced a vote in the six-member Parliamentary Board. Mrs Gandhi was outvoted four to two.
Even as a brooding Indira Gandhi left for Bangalore, a fresh opening presented itself. The Vice-President V V Giri announced that he would contest the presidential elections as an independent candidate. Mrs Gandhi knew that before she could support Giri against her own party's nominee, she would have to regain the initiative within the party. This she did first by forcing Morarji Desai out of the Cabinet and then by nationalizing banks. She also went ahead and filed the nomination for Sanjiva Reddy, though she refrained from issuing a whip to Congress MPs.
The Syndicate realized that Mrs Gandhi might yet come out in support of Giri. Nijalingappa took a fatal misstep by approaching the main opposition parties, Swatantra and Jana Sangh, to cast their second preference vote for Reddy (the opposition's candidate was C D Deshmukh). Mrs Gandhi seized the opportunity to denounce Nijalingappa's move. Yet, she did not formally reveal her preference until the night before the elections, when she called on her party to 'vote according to conscience'.
V V Giri won the poll by a narrow margin. The voting figures showed that a majority of Congress members had actually voted for Reddy. Giri had edged through with a minority of Congress votes and support from a curious combination of opposition groups.