New Delhi: Two days
after the UPA chose Pranab Mukherjee for presidency, the National
Democratic Alliance (NDA) was divided Sunday over the presidential
elections. But former Lok Sabha speaker P.A. Sangma refused to
quit the race despite appeals from his leader Sharad Pawar.
A meeting of the NDA attended by leaders of the Bharatiya Janata
Party (BJP), Akali Dal, Janata Dal-United (JD-U) and Haryana
Janhit Congress and Janata Party's Subramanian Swamy failed to
agree on a possible candidate after contrasting views emerged.
To make the matters worse, the Shiv Sena stayed away, apparently
peeved over the NDA's delay in picking a presidential candidate.
With the NDA divided over supporting Mukherjee - perhaps in return
for the UPA allowing the NDA to select a vice-president - or
backing Sangma or a third person, no decision could be taken
Bharatiya Janata Party leader L.K. Advani has been authorised to
talk to have wider consultations with NDA chief ministers and
NDA convener Sharad Yadav of JD-U, which is said to favour Pranab
Mukherjee, said: "NDA will meet sometime later again to take a
decision in this regard."
The Shiv Sena is against Sangma, the presidential candidate of the
AIADMK and Biju Janata Dal.
While JD-U and Akali Dal don't want the NDA to put up a candidate
against Mukherjee, the Shiv Sena and Janata Party want a contest.
In 2007, the Sena went against the BJP and voted for Congress
candidate Pratibha Patil because she is from Maharashtra.
With a peeved Pawar finally letting Sangma know that he should
quit the race, the NCP leader from Meghayala Sunday requested
Pawar to support him.
"I am still in the race," Sangma told reporters here. "Pawar is
saying he will appeal to me to withdraw, and I appeal to him to
He underlined that he was a candidate of the Tribal Forum of
India, which had nothing to do with any political party.
Sangma admitted after talking to several NDA leaders that "they
have some differences" over next month's presidential battle.
"I talked to Mamata Banerjee. She said she is supporting (former
president A.P.J. Abdul) Kalam. I said as Kalam has opted out of
the race, so you should support me."
The BJP, with the 2014 Lok Sabha election in mind, is trying to
win over both Mamata Banerjee, whose ties with the UPA are
strained, and YSR Congress founder Jaganmohan Reddy, the emerging
force in Andhra Pradesh.
"We will consult all non-Congress parties. The aim is to build
stronger relations (ahead of the) Lok Sabha poll," said a leader.
The Left parties will meet Thursday to take a final call on the
presidential battle, said general secretary Prakash Karat of the
Communist Party of India-Marxist.
As of now, Mukherjee is far ahead of everyone in the race. Even if
Sangma contests with NDA support, Mukherjee is set to garner
nearly half of all votes.
The presidential electoral college is made up of MPs and members
of state assemblies.