New Delhi: With the support growing for Union Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee - a UPA candidate- and major NDA allies JD-U and Shiv Sena expressing support to his candidature for the President’s post, the main opposition BJP is in a fix on the issue.
With former president APJ Abdul Kalam quitting the presidential race, leaving Trinamool Congress and the BJP red-faced, the main opposition party is now attempting to build consensus over NCP leader PA Sangma as NDA`s Presidential candidate.
In no mood to give a walkover to the Finance Minister in the Presidential Election, the saffron party is trying to convince its dithering NDA allies like Shiv Sena, JD-U and the SAD to fall in line and announce support for Sangama.
BJP leaders, especially LK Advani and Sushma Swaraj, were keen on having Kalam as the Opposition candidate due to his stature and his wider acceptability among the political parties. However, he yesterday declared that he does not wish to contest as his "conscience" does not permit him to do so.
Advani, who had been in constant touch with Kalam over the phone for the past few days, even asked him to delay his statement on the decision to opt out but the latter decided to come clean and ended all speculation.
Jolted by this decision, BJP convened a meeting of its Core Group last night to discuss the new development and decide the future course of action.
A meeting of the NDA allies is also scheduled for today on the issue. With Kalam opting out, the JD(U) and the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) have become more adamant about not having a contest against Pranab. Shiv Sena, too, has openly endorsed Pranab for the top job.
Spelling more trouble for BJP, the Shiv Sena today confirmed its support for UPA`s Presidential nominee Pranab Mukherjee in its mouthpiece `Saamna`.
Shiv Sena supremo Bal Thackeray was quoted as saying in the editorial said, "The dignity of the nation should not be compromised for narrow political gains. If you don`t have a sword, don`t enter the battlefield. We should all come together and back Pranab Mukherjee and show the world we are united," he added.
Meanwhile, Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar today said that NDA should declare a secular candidate, who should be acceptable to every constituent of the alliance and someone who has absolute faith in democratic values.
BJP MP Maneka Gandhi has also expressed support for Pranab`s candidature, describing him as an `excellent candidate` for the President`s post.
What can further go in favour of Pranab is the fact that Sangma does not enjoy the stature that Kalam does, rendering a contest even more redundant.
With its allies isolating it, the main opposition party now appears to be in a fix as it does not want Pranab to get elected without a contest.
Veteran BJP leader LK Advani is also trying to get BJD chief Naveen Patnaik and AIADMK chief Jayalalithaa on board to nominate Sangma as their joint candidate.