New Delhi: The National Democratic Alliance (NDA) led by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) failed to decide on a candidate for the post of President on Sunday as it grappled with internal differences.
A 2-hour meeting of NDA leaders ended inconclusive.
An NDA leader who did not want to be identified said the Janata Dal-United, or JD(U), was not keen on fielding a candidate against the Congress party’s nominee Pranab Mukherjee.
Immediately after the Congress announced the name of the finance minister as its candidate on Friday, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh contacted Bihar chief minister and JD(U) leader Nitish Kumar for supporting Mukherjee’s candidature.
“JD(U) is not keen to fight Pranab. And we also discussed our chances if we put up a candidate. (L.K.) Advani has been delegated the task of consulting NDA leaders and chief ministers and bring a consensus,” said the NDA leader.
Sticking point: BJP leaders Nitin Gadkari and L.K. Advani with JD(U) leader Sharad Yadav in New Delhi. Photo: Arvind Yadav /Hindustan Times
Political analysts said the BJP has the 2014 general election in mind as it discusses the election of President.
“There are two streams of thought. Firstly, the BJP is trying to capture the mindset for 2014 elections by fighting it, fully knowing an NDA candidate may not win. At the same time, it also faces the danger of exposing the cracks within the NDA if all the allies are not on board,” Jai Mrug, a Mumbai-based political analyst said. “Secondly, the smaller parties are looking at short-term gains. Like for the JD(U), Nitish Kumar has been trying to get special status for his state, for which he needs Centre’s support.”
At the meeting, the NDA considered backing the candidature of P.A. Sangma, a former Lok Sabha speaker and a leader of the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP), said the unnamed NDA leader.
The Biju Janata Dal and the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK) announced their support for Sangma at the meeting on Sunday, this person said.
The NCP is a member of the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government at the Centre.
Although NCP chief and agriculture minister Sharad Pawar said he will persuade the former speaker from contesting the election, Sangma reiterated his candidature and said he was in touch with Trinamool Congress chief Mamata Banerjee.
“I appealed to her to support my candidature. She was insisting on Dr Kalam. I said Dr Kalam had opted out of the race. Therefore, you should support (me),” Sangma said.
Banerjee’s party is part of the UPA but has frequently defied the Congress party, including its nomination of Mukherjee.
The BJP is also discussing a request from its Rajya Sabha member and senior lawyer Ram Jethmalanito contest against Mukherjee.
“We discussed Jethmalani’s claims of contesting. The BJP does not want the UPA candidate to be elected unopposed, so we are very keen. We are having wide consultation in this regard and will take a decision soon,” a BJP leader privy to the developments said, also declining to be identified.
The Shiv Sena, another ally of the NDA, did not attend the meeting, allegedly dissatisfied over the delay on the part of the BJP to initiate a discussion on the presidential election. It was unclear if the Shiv Sena will nominate its own candidate.
Shiv Sena leader Sanjay Raut only said, “Shiv Sena chief Bal Thackeray will take a decision on the issue.”
PTI contributed to this story.