The BJP-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA), which was likely to hold a meeting today to decide on its presidential candidate, has deferred it. Sources say the NDA is waiting for the Left Front to decide its candidate. During its last meeting on June 17, the BJP-led coalition had failed to arrive at any consensus.
Senior BJP leader LK Advani has said there must be a contest but the party has not been able to come up with a candidate for the July 19 election. Mr Advani and others are determined to use presidential election to prove the Opposition is strong. They know the math favours UPA's Pranab Mukherjee
, but are not comfortable supporting the UPA ahead of the general election of 2014.
The NDA is divided over presidential candidate - yesterday the NDA coalition partner Shiv Sena openly supported the candidature of Mr Mukherjee for President, JD(U)'s Nitish Kumar and the Shironami Akal Dal (SAD) are also not happy to put up a fight against Mr Mukherjee.
Sources say the BJP finds itself isolated within the NDA and is trying to find a way to convince its partners to put up a contest and choose a candidate against Mr Mukherjee.
After former president APJ Abdul Kalam
pulled out of the race despite West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee's very vocal support for him, the NDA will now have to decide whether to support NCP leader PA Sangma
or name its own candidate.
A section within the NDA says Mr Sangma should now be their candidate. But with JD(U) and Shiv Sena opposed to any contest, arriving at a consensus over the NCP leader is going to be a tough task, say sources. Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa and Odisha Chief Minister Navin Patnaik have already voiced their support to Mr Sangma.
Sources say the NCP parliamentary board is likely to meet tomorrow and it may ask Mr Sangma to bow out of the presidential race. His party chief Mr Sharad Pawar has already said that the NCP will back Congress' candidate and had asked Mr Sangma to follow the party line. The former Speaker has, however, maintained that he is very much in the race for the post of President.
The UPA, with the support of Mulayam Singh Yadav, Mayawati, and smaller parties like Lalu Prasad's RJD, is likely to get 54% of the vote; more if the Left chips in.
Mr Sangma will manage about 30% of the vote if the BJP supports him. If Mamata Banerjee's party joins in, 33% of the electoral college could vote for him.
Ms Banerjee, who has rejected Mr Mukherjee though she participates in the UPA, is allegedly in favour of abstaining.