The BJD and AIADMK today added a new twist to the presidential race by supporting the candidature of former Lok Sabha Speaker P A Sangma. But NCP chief Sharad Pawar clarified that his party cannot aspire for such a major post with such limited strength.
Expressing gratitude to Orissa Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik and Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa for supporting his candidature,Sangma appealed to other parties to support the tribal cause.
I met her (Jayalalithaa) the day before yesterday and she told me about her discussion with the Orissa chief minister. It has started with two political parties,and I am ssure others will also support the tribal cause in the coming days, Sangma told The Indian Express.
The BJD and AIADMK together have over 66,000 votes in an electoral college of 10,98,882; the NCP has 24,060 votes.
Seeking to play down his partys noncommittal stand on his candidature,Sangma said,It is not a party matter. We (tribal leaders) have sent a letter to Sharad Pawar requesting an appointment. We have also sought a meeting with Sonia Gandhi. Lets see.
Sangma had earlier met BJP chief Nitin Gadkari and senior leaders Arun Jaitley and Sushma Swaraj also. They said what you are saying is genuine but the party (BJP) has to take a collective decision on the issue, he said.
Sangmas emergence as a serious contender has put the Congress on a sticky wicket as it would not like to be seen as opposing the candidaure of a tribal leader from the Northeast,although the UPA,together with SP and BSP,has the numbers to get its candidate elected. The Congress may also have its eye on the coming elections in states with significant tribal population Gujarat this year and Rajasthan,Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh next year.
Moreover,neither the Trinamool Congress nor the NCP,notwithstanding its seeming distancing from Sangmas candidature,have revealed their cards. While the Congress is keeping its own cards close to its chest,Sangmas candidature could force it to show its hand.
Despite the Congress high commands known reservation against fielding Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee, due to his indispensiblity or otherwise,he could still be the partys best bet,especially in the event of a contest,given his acceptability across party lines. Fielding a dark horse,as the ruling dispensation did in 2007,may have an element of risk which the Congress cannot afford to take.
Shortly after the BJD and AIADMK announced their support for Sangmas candidature today,NCP chief Sharad Pawar said,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.
Sangma is a distingushed and valuable party leader but on such a matter we cannot do anything that is irrational. Our party president has already clarified that the President of India should be elected through widest possible consensus, said NCP general secretary and MP D P Tripathi.
Earlier in the day,Naveen Patnaik announced his partys support for the 65-year-old tribal leader from Meghalaya,saying he was a prominent tribal leader who had the experience of occupying the post of Lok Sabha Speaker. Since tribals comprise a quarter of the states population,it would be befitting to support a tribal candidate like Sangma,he said.
Jayalalithaa,in her statement,said that after due consideration and consultations within the AIADMK as well as Patnaik,her party had decided to support Sangmas candidature. Recalling her meeting with him,she said he not only belongs to a tribal community but is also eminently qualified to be the President of our great nation.
She added that during the past 60 years of the Republic of India,while eminent personalities belonging to various communities and diverse walks of life have graced the office of the Rashtrapati,no one belonging to a tribal community has had the opportunity so far.
As reported by The Sunday Express on April 15,the NCP had sent feelers to the NDA camp about Sangmas candidature and was given to understand that the Opposition would think of supporting him if his name was proposed by some other party like the SP,BSP or Trinamool Congress. NDA convenor Sharad Yadav today declined to comment when asked about Sangmas candidature. Sources said the Opposition alliance was in no hurry to take a decision. They felt it was premature to say anything till the UPA makes its choice known.
Presidency is an august institution and till that point in time when consultations do not fructify into conclusions,speculation and second guessing should be avoided, said Congress spokesman Manish Tewari.
According to an analysis done by Congress strategists,the UPA and those likely to support it constitute 4,63,770 voters. These include the Congress (3,31,131),DMK (21,783),NCP (24,060),Trinamool Congress (48,044),RLD (5,204),RJD (8,934),LJP (1,303),AIMIM (1,744),KCM (2076),NC (5556),IUML (3040),JDS (6138),and JMM (4757). The SP has 68,771 votes as against the BSPs 43,777.