New Delhi: With former Lok Sabha speaker P.A Sangma resigning from the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) following his party’s reluctance to back him as presidential candidate, the opposition National Democratic Alliance (NDA) may support him. This will ensure that United Progressive Alliance (UPA) presidential candidate Pranab Mukherjee is not elected unopposed.
However, the NDA’s decision to back Sangma may further deepen the crisis within the opposition alliance.
Leaders of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), which heads the NDA, indicated they may back Sangma. They hadn’t announced their support for Sangma earlier as they wanted “to be sure” of Sangma’s “intention to contest”.
A long-standing NDA ally, Shiv Sena, has already pledged its support to finance minister and United Progressive Alliance (UPA) presidential candidate Pranab Mukherjee, while the Janata Dal (United), or JD(U), another member of the grouping, is not keen to oppose Mukherjee. According to BJP leaders, the NDA is likely to support the candidature of Sangma, who belongs to the NCP, an ally of the ruling UPA, as he has got the support of erstwhile NDA allies, Biju Janata Dal (BJD) and All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam(AIADMK).
In the race: Former Lok Sabha speaker P.A. Sangma. Photo by Hindustan Times
“One of the tasks ahead of the BJP is to expand the NDA fold. We cannot win the presidential election, but by supporting Sangma we have an opportunity to forge a better relationship with both BJD and AIADMK,” a BJP leader said.
“L.K. Advani (NDA convenor and senior BJP leader) is already in touch with NDA and non-Congress party leaders to gather support for Sangma,” another BJP leader said. “The main apprehension was about Sangma himself, whether he will back off.” Both the leaders requested anonymity. Sangma, in his resignation letter to NCP chief and agriculture minister Sharad Pawar, said, “disinclination of the NCP to endorse my candidature amounts to a denial of the aspirations of the tribals of the country”.
Significantly, NDA ally and Janata Party leader Subramanian Swamy informed the media about Sangma’s resignation after meeting him. Swamy has been tasked by the NDA to talk to non-Congress parties to gather support against the UPA candidate. “Sangma is a candidate of Jayalalithaa and Naveen Patnaik and the only question that remains is whether NDA will back him. Final decision will be taken at the NDA meeting. I can only say consensus is in favour of supporting the candidate of Jayalalithaa and Patnaik,” Swamy said.
“The BJP will use this opportunity to woo its older allies like BJD and AIADMK and by supporting Sangma’s candidature it will send a signal to Congress that the stage is set for the 2014 elections,” said Jai Mrug, a Mumbai-based political analyst. “BJP will also try to keep its allies intact as it’s known for bending and favouring them. But at the same time it will try to signal to its allies that the main opposition party cannot be taken for granted.”
Meanwhile, the rift between BJP and JD(U) grew wider on Wednesday as Shivanand Tiwari, a senior JD(U) leader, echoed the views of Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar that NDA’s prime ministerial candidate should be secular.
“People who voted for BJP due to liberal face of (Atal Bihari) Vajpayee, went away from the party after Gujarat riots. The floating votes went to Congress because people do not accept fanatic politics. Those people in BJP who want the party to come to power will have to realize that they cannot do it by putting a fanatic face in the front,” Tiwari said in an apparent reference to Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi.
Surprisingly, the ruling Congress preferred to stay away from the political crisis within the NDA. “Whatever happens in the NDA is their internal problem. And the Congress has nothing to do with it,” said Rashid Alvi, party spokesperson.