Mukherjee appeared set to enter Rashtrapati Bhavan as the BJP
remained undecided over the issue and even sections of the
party-led National Democratic Alliance favoured the union finance
minister Saturday considering his political stature and
Adding to the unfolding political drama, P.A. Sangma continued to
defy his Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) to contest against
Mukherjee, even though party chief Sharad Pawar said he will try
to convince him and hoped Trinamool Congress leader Mamata
Banerjee will reconsider her stance against the UPA nominee.
In a surprise move, Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader Ram
Jethmalani said he might also contest against Mukherjee.
"I might contest presidential election. I will decide in the two
or three days," the BJP Rajya Sabha member told IANS.
His sudden announcement came after murmurs of support for the UPA
candidate from key NDA constituents Janata Dal-United and to some
extent, Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD).
The BJP, which is yet to make up its mind on supporting Mukherjee
even after a three-hour meeting, finds itself in a quandary.
According to sources, the party discussed whether to support
Mukherjee or to back Sangma, who enjoys the support of two chief
ministers - AIADMK's J. Jayalalitha and Biju Janata Dal's Naveen
Sources said the party wants to tread with caution as it does not
want to displease either AIADMK or BJD as it will help build
bridges with them during the 2014 general elections.
On the other hand, the BJP fears an uneasy relationship with JD-U
and SAD if it doesn't support Mukherjee.
JD-U leader Shivanand Tiwari was the first one to express support
"A senior and respected leader like Pranab Mukherjee, who is going
to retire (from active politics), should be given a graceful
sendoff," Tiwari told reporters in Patna, adding that it was his
He also said that Mukherjee enjoys the backing of Samajwadi Party
and Bahujan Samaj Party (BJP), whose support will take the United
Progressive Alliance's (UPA) strength in the electoral college to
JD-U chief Sharad Yadav was quick to point out that NDA will meet
Sunday and decide its stand on the presidential poll. He also
added that Tiwari was airing his personal view.
JD-U is the second largest partner in the NDA and the party shares
power in Bihar with the BJP.
Making it tough for the BJP to take a decision, the BJD also came
out in open support of Sangma Saturday.
"As of now there is no change in our decision on the presidential
poll. BJD sticks to its support for Sangma, a prominent tribal
leader. We are determined to back Sangma," senior leader and BJD
parliamentary party leader Arjun Sethi told reporters in
But the NCP, which is part of UPA and had endorsed Mukherjee's
candidature, is hoping to reason with Sangma. NCP leader and Heavy
Industries Minister Praful Patel indicated that the party could
expel Sangma, if he went ahead to contest.
NCP is holding a meet on this matter next Thursday
The BJP had earlier favoured A.P.J. Abdul Kalam. But the former
president may not contest, despite Mamata Banerjee insisting that
her Trinamool Congress will support him.
The BJD (3.3 percent) and AIADMK (2.8 percent) together make only
6.1 percent of total votes in the electoral college. If NDA backs
Sangma, the total will be 33.8 percent.
Even if Sangma decides to contest the presidential poll, Mukherjee
is set to sail through with a total vote share of 48 percent on
The Left parties, which were among the first to extend support to
Mukherjee, will meet next Thursday to take a final call in the
Considering that Mukherjee enjoys a very good relationship with
the Left and had called senior Communist leaders for support after
Trinamool Congress chief had nixed his candidature, the Left may
like to favour him.
A cornered Trinamool challenged the Congress Saturday, with West
Bengal minister Firhad Hakim saying the Congress could leave the
state government if it wanted.
Banerjee constinues to pitch for Kalam. In her Facbook account,
opened Saturday, she again backed the former president, saying he
"enjoys support of millions".