NDA divided on fighting Mukherjee

While the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) candidate Pranab Mukherjee looks comfortably placed in the presidential race, the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) seems to be losing the plot to arrive at a consensus. In the meeting of NDA constituents held on Sunday, its leaders failed to finalise the name of their presidential candidate. There are indications that there are fissures within the NDA over supporting Mukherjee.

The Janata Dal (United) leader Shivanand Tiwari endorsed the candidature of Mukherjee, saying that he should be given a graceful send off. However, his senior colleague and JD(U) president Sharad Yadav termed it his personal view, and not that of their party.

The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leaders took the stand that there was merit in challenging Mukherjee to a contest. Its senior leaders L K Advani and Sushma Swaraj are believed to have told the NDA partners that in view of the General Election in 2014, the presidential poll should be turned into a contest.

While the NDA did not look to be in a hurry on Sunday, there was no clarity on over P A Sangma's candidature. With A P J Abdul Kalam making it clear that he would not contest, sources say that the BJP might back Sangama, as it would help them win the AIADMK and the Biju Janata Dal as alliance partners for future.

While the NDA was deliberating, the senior BJP leader Ram Jethmalani threw in a surprise by announcing that if the NDA did not contest Mukherjee's claim to the President's House, he would challenge him. He said that he wanted to oppose Mukherjee for not revealing the names of people who have deposited illegal money in foreign banks.

The NDA convenor Sharad Yadav said that the final call on the presidential poll would only be taken after consultations with the chief ministers of the NDA-ruled state. 'More discussions are required in this regard to arrive at the right decision and L K Advani will talk to chief ministers of NDA-ruled states,' said Yadav. The JD(U) leader added that the NDA would meet again to take a decision.
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