Differences within the NDA today forced it to defer a decision on entering the presidential contest against UPA candidate Pranab Mukherjee. Leaders of the alliance,who met at BJP leader L K Advanis residence,decided to consult chief ministers including Nitish Kumar,Narendra Modi and Mamata Banerjee before making a decision.
Various leaders put forth their views in detail. More discussions are required in this regard to arrive at the right decision. L K Advani will talk to chief ministers of NDA-ruled states and all others. NDA will meet some time later again to take a decision, NDA convener Sharad Yadav said after a two-hour meeting of the alliance,at which the Shiv Sena was not present.
The BJP had at a meeting of its core group yesterday decided to take a final decision after the NDA meeting today. The fact that no decision was announced is in itself an indication of differences, an NDA leader said after the meeting. The leader declined to specify if the differences were over whether to contest against the finance minister or over a specific candidate.
The name of A P J Abdul Kalam has come from Mamata Banerjee,and that of P A Sangma from Jayalalithaa and Naveen Patnaik all leaders of parties outside the NDA.
The JD(U) was learnt to have expressed reservations today over contesting against Mukherjee,a veteran parliamentarian who is respected in all parties. The BJP favoured a contest even though there was no clarity on potential candidates.
BJP leaders at the meeting stressed the need to use the presidential election as an opportunity to widen the NDA umbrella,with an eye on the next Lok Sabha elections.
Another leader present at the meeting was learnt to have argued that the NDA should wait for the Left parties to announce their position (on June 21) before taking a call.
While Mamata Banerjee today stuck to Kalams candidature despite the ex-presidents own reluctance,Sangma,who is under serious pressure from his party NCP against jumping into the fray,remained determined to contest.
(NCP chief) Sharad Pawar is saying that he will appeal to me to withdraw. I can tell you that I will appeal to him to support me, Sangma said. I have maintained right from the beginning that I am a candidate of the Tribal Forum of India,which has nothing to with any political party.
The BJP insisted there were no differences within the NDA.
NDA is united,is together and is speaking in one voice, BJP spokesperson Shahnawaz Hussain said. The Shiv Sena,despite being absent from todays meeting,too was fully with NDA,Hussain said.
Sena parliamentary group leader Sanjay Raut told The Indian Express that his party was yet to decide. Advani had spoken to Sena patriarch Bal Thackeray,he said,while Sharad Yadav had spoken to Uddhav Thackeray this morning.
Asked if the Sena was against the NDA supporting Sangma against Mukherjee,Raut said,Balasaheb will take a call once the issue is addressed by the NDA.
The Sena broke ranks with the NDA in 2007,when it voted for Pratibha Patil,a Maharashtrian,against Bhairon Singh Shekhawat of the BJP.