Prez poll: No support for any Congress candidate, says BJP

Prez poll: No support for any Congress candidate, says BJP

Prez poll: No support for any Congress candidate, says BJP

A contest for Rashtrapati Bhavan in July appeared a certainty as the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) on Monday made it clear that it would oppose any candidate put up by the Congress, including Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee and Vice-President Hamid Ansari.

Even as the Congress, the party leading the ruling United Progressive Alliance (UPA) initiated consultation among its allies, BJP leader Sushma Swaraj said: "We will not accept any Congress candidate, including Pranab Mukherjee, for the President's post. Ansari does not have the stature to be President and hence the BJP will not support him.”

This is the first time that the BJP has publicly revealed its stand on the presidential poll. Congress sources have indicated that Ansari and Mukherjee are party’s options to succeed Pratibha Patil and “these names will be there in consultations with other allies as well.”

During their discussions with allies such as the DMK and Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) of Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar, Congress emissaries are understood to have informed them about its choice of Ansari or Mukherjee—in that order—for the coveted post.

In his talks with Defence Minister A K Antony in Chennai on Sunday, Karunanidhi is understood to have floated the name of former Lok Sabha speaker Somnath Chatterjee but the Congress is unlikely to support this proposal.

Swaraj’s statement indicates a shift in the stand of the BJP, as the party’s senior leaders, in off-the-record conversations with journalists, had earlier indicated that they would not oppose Mukherjee, the experienced Parliamentarian and stickler to the Constitution, if he emerged as the consensus candidate.

The BJP leaders said the party changed its stand as senior leaders felt that agreeing to a consensus candidate would portray the party as lacking in aggression. Swaraj said: “We are looking at the 2014 elections and do not want to give the impression that we have any truck with the Congress,” Swaraj said. She said the BJP was gauging the mood of the UPA allies on the Presidential elections.

“Even in 2007, when the UPA was in a far better position compared to its scam-tainted regime now, the BJP had opposed the Congress candidate. Why should we yield now?”

However, Swaraj said the BJP would be open to the idea if a non-Congress candidate like A P J Abdul Kalam was put up as a consensus candidate, with the vice-presidential candidate being a NDA nominee.

“We can have an understanding with non-Congress parties where we support their Presidential candidate and they support our vice-presidential candidate."

Amid reports suggesting that Mukherjee is among the potential candidates, the Finance Minister on Monday avoided questions on the issue.

"Oh my goodness...oh my goodness..," was the response of a smiling Mukherjee, when asked about his being projected as consensus choice for President's post. "Don't indulge in any speculation," he said when his attention was drawn to reports that his name came up in discussion between Antony and Karunanidhi.
Congress President Sonia Gandhi earlier met NCP chief Sharad Pawar and is likely to talk to Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee.

Giving a new twist to the presidential race, a Member of key UPA ally NCP and Union Minister Agatha Sangma suggested that Mukherjee continue as Finance Minister and pitched for her father P A Sangma, on the ground that a tribal and a Christian have never been a President.

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