Key NDA ally Shiv Sena, which had embarassed BJP in the previous two Presidential elections by backing the rival candidate, on Thursday said it may take an “independent” stand in the upcoming polls and pushed for the candidature of RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat.
The Sena, the oldest ally of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), said it will continue to press for the chief of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh(RSS) for the highest office. Bhagwat, 66, has already said he is not interested in the President’s post.
“We may take an independent stand on our vote in the upcoming presidential election. We have time and again reiterated that we do not find anyone other than (RSS chief) Mohan Bhagwat more capable of fulfilling the Hindu rashtra (nation) dream,” Sena spokesperson Sanjay Raut told reporters in Mumbai.
The Uddhav Thackersay-headed Shiv Sena had embarrassed the BJP in the 2012 presidential poll by backing the UPA candidate Pranab Mukherjee while the saffron party supported P A Sangma for the post. In 2007 also, the Sena ignored NDA’s presidential candidate Bhairon Singh Shekhawat and instead voted for UPA candidate and senior Congress leader Pratibha Patil, who hailed from Maharashtra.
With presidential contest, if required, scheduled to be held on July 17, the BJP is hopeful of securing the support of the Sena’s contingent of 18 MPs and 63 MLAs. The BJP’s oldest pro-Hindutva ally has been seen playing the hard ball over the issue so far.
Toughening its stand on the farmers’ agitation in Maharashtra, Raut, also a Rajya Sabha MP, asked the BJP to relinquish power if it could not solve the grievances of the agriculturists and if it felt offended by the Sena’s stand on loan waiver. “There are lot of differences between the Sena and the government over farmers’ issues. If the BJP cannot solve the problems being faced by farmers and if they find our stand to be troublesome, they should forgo power then,” he said.
On Wednesday, making light of the Sena ministers’ absence at the cabinet meeting, state Finance minister Sudhir Mungantiwar of the BJP said that they did not boycott the cabinet meet but sought permission not to attend it, which the chief minister had granted. He also said that since Thackeray was not in town, his views on farm loan waiver issue could not be sought.
Taking a dig at Mungantiwar’s remarks that Thackeray’s views will be sought after he returns from his foreign tour, Raut said even Prime Minister Narendra Modi is on a foreign tour while there is a severe agrarian crisis in the country.