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Naveen, Jaya spring Sangma surprise

Injecting a new element in the presidential race, the regional parties Biju Janata Dal (BJD) and the AIADMK announced their joint support for the former Lok Sabha speaker P A Sangma. However, his own party the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) distanced itself from this development.

The chief ministers of Orissa and Tamil Nadu, Naveen Patnaik and Jayalalithaa respectively, who have lately come together on issues of federalism and met last week in Chennai, announced their support to the 65-year-old tribal leader from the Northeast.

'I think Mr Sangma ought to be candidate for the highest post for the Rashtrapati Bhavan,' Patnaik  told reporters in Bhubhaneswar, adding that he had held discussions with Jayalalithaa on the issue.

Shortly after, the AIAIDMK chief issued a statement in Chennai saying that her party had decided to support the candidature of Sangma for the highest office after 'due consideration'. Recalling Sangma's 15 May meeting with her, Jayalalithaa said he 'not only belongs to a tribal community but is also eminently qualified to be the president of our great nation'.

Sangma, who has been campaigning for a tribal president, thanked the two parties for the decision, but NCP chief Sharad Pawar pleaded ignorance about the development. 'I am not aware of any such development. Sangma has not spoken to us. We have had no discussions. We feel that with such a limited strength, we cannot aspire for such a major post,' Pawar said.

Sangma said that he was not lobbying as an NCP leader but did so in his personal capacity.

This is the first announcement by any political parties to back a particular candidate for the presidential polls scheduled in July.
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