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Sangh shadow made Nitish, Mamata wary of Sangma

There is more than what meets the eye in the Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar and the West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee not supporting the candidature of the former Lok Sabha speaker Purno Sangma for the post of president. The decision of the former president A P J Abdul Kalam to decline Banerjee's offer to contest the poll is also linked to it.

Sources in the Janata Dal [United] say that Kumar's reluctance, which may even rock his decade-long alliance with the Bharatiya Janata Party [BJP], emanates from the fact that Sangma was the first choice of the Sangh parivar for the job, and not Kalam. Incidentally Sangma is not the first Christian from Meghalaya whom the BJP has taken a liking for. In 1991, G G Swell had contested as the opposition candidate against  the Congress nominee Shankar Dayal Sharma in the presidential race.

A decision to field Sangma was taken earlier in the year and 'the idea of his candidature' was floated at the discussion event held by the right-of-the-centre think tank Vivekanand International Foundation.

On 31 March this year, Sangma was invited to deliver a talk on governance by the foundation, where the former speaker chose to criticise the Manmohan Singh government, despite his daughter being its part. The session was chaired by Ajit Doval, the director of foundation. Doval was the powerful director of the Intelligence Bureau in the National Democratic Alliance [NDA] government.

The discussion was conspicuously attended, among others, by Subhash C Kashyap, a former secretary-general of the Lok Sabha, A K Verma, a former chief of the Research and Analysis Wing, Ved Prakash Marwah, a former governor of Manipur, Mizoram and Jharkhand and Vijai Kapoor, a former lieutenant governor of Delhi. All of them are known for their proximity to the BJP. The link of the foundation with the Sangh parivar is visible by the presence of S Gurumurthy on its advisory board.

A few days later, the Tamil Nadu chief minister J Jayalalitha and Odisha chief minister Naveen Patnaik surprised everyone by signing a friendship treaty in the national capital. The two soon got together to announce the name of Sangma as their candidate for the Rashtrapati Bhawan. Those who closely follow Tamil Nadu politics and the Sangh movement saw Gurumurthy's signature in the pact.

This was followed by the induction of the Janata Party president Subramanian Swamy on the high table of the NDA, giving clear indications that Sangma enjoyed Sangh's blessings. A 'political' Sangma was preferred over an 'apolitical' Kalam, keeping in mind the pro-active role the Rashtrapati Bhawan could play in case of a fractured mandate after the 2014 General Election.

'Given their high-stakes among the minority voters, Nitish Kumar and Mamata Banerjee could never be expected to back a Sangh nominee,' said the JD[U] source. Kumar and Banerjee have maintained close contact in recent times, especially on the issue of presidential candidate. For them, especially Kumar, Pranab Mukherjee is a better option keeping the possible scenario of a fractured 2014 mandate in mind and given that Kalam is out of the race.
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