Don't fight Pranab, Nitish tells NDA

Don't fight Pranab, Nitish tells NDA

Presidential poll: Opposition alliance in dilemma after JD-U backs Pranab

Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar, who is resisting BJP’s attempt to give a fight to the Congress candidate Pranab Mukherjee in the Presidential poll, is not doing it out of sheer pragmatism, but also as a strategy to move away from the BJP, sources in the JD-U say.

Party insiders say that as soon as the candidature of Pranab Mukherjee was announced, Nitish Kumar conveyed to party leaders  his view that the NDA should not contest.

The statement of senior party leader Shivanand Tiwari echoed the chief minister’s view that the NDA be “graceful” in allowing Pranab Mukherjee become president without a contest. Tiwari said the the senior Congress leader deserved the gesture.

Tiwari met JD-U chief Sharad Yadav on Saturday to discuss the party strategy ahead of the NDA meeting on Sunday. According to sources, Sharad Yadav wanted the party to go by the decision of the NDA.  He, party leaders say, is of the opinion that option of contesting should be considered.

However, in the NDA meeting, JD-U leaders argued for a no-contest, while the BJP leaders advocated the necessity to put up a fight. The JD-U leaders cited lack of sufficient number of votes and the absence of a potent candidate.

The party rejected all the names taking rounds as the possible challenger to Pranab Mukherjee. JD-U leaders do not consider P A Sangma a serious candidate. However, they  are also not keen on supporting Kalam.

“The confusion that our party might be supporting Kalam has resulted from Kalam-Nitish meeting in Patna last week. The truth is that the meeting had nothing to do with presidential election,” said a JD-U leader.

According to sources, the differences over the presidential poll may be a prelude to future trends in the relationship between the BJP and the JD-U. Uneasy over the prospect of the BJP projecting Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi as its prime ministerial candidate, Nittish Kumar is trying to move away from the BJP. The presidential poll has given him an opportunity to to take a political course different from that of the BJP, JD-U sources say.  

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