Pranab miles ahead as NDA squabbles


NEW DELHI, June 17 (Agencies): 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 Sunday.

Bharatiya Janata Party leader L.K. Advani has been authorised to talk to have wider consultations with NDA chief ministers and other parties.

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 support me.”

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.


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