The BJP has decided to support PA Sangma
for President of India against Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee
. The Opposition party says that the Prime Minister's request for their support for Mr Mukherjee came too late after a "unilateral" decision to field Mr Mukherjee. On June 15, the Congress declared Mr Mukherjee as the candidate of the coalition it leads, the UPA. (President Pranab or President Sangma? Vote here
"A prerequisite of consensus is consultation," said the BJP's Sushma Swaraj today. She acknowledged that two major allies of the BJP, the Shiv Sena and Nitish Kumar, have refused to back Mr Sangma. "We are still trying to get them on board," she said. Arun Jaitley of the BJP also said that the party wants to convince West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee to vote for Mr Sangma as well. Though Ms Banerjee is a member of the UPA, she has been estranged from the coalition over her refusal to support Mr Mukherjee. She campaigned aggressively for a new term for former president Abdul Kalam; however, he eventually decided not to run for President, partly because the math appears to be in Mr Mukherjee's favour. "The logical pursuit of what Mamata Banerjee has started should be to support the Opposition candidate," said Mr Jaitley.
Congress spokesperson, Janardhan Dwivedi, however, said, "It's a childish behavior to say the UPA did not consult. Mr Sangma may have many qualities but there is no comparison between Sangma and Pranab."
Mr Sangma, meanwhile, thanked all the parties for their support. "I have spoken to Mamata Bannerjee. She requested me to support her candidate. Now that Kalam is out of race, I hope Mamata Bannerjee will support me. I will talk to her again," he said today.
But the math is not in Mr Sangma's favour. The BJP, acknowledging that, said it will put up a fight against Mr Mukherjee on principle. "Can we been seen as strengthening a failed UPA? The idea of an election is integral to democracy, it is not alien to democracy," said Mr Jaitley.
Navin Patnaik and J Jayalalithaa, the Opposition chief ministers who first announced Mr Sangma as their candidate, hold 6% of the vote. With the BJP on board, Mr Sangma manages 26% of the vote. An additional 4% comes his way if he wins the endorsement of Mr Banerjee. That adds up to just 33% of the electoral college. The four Left parties are meeting today to decide who they will support. Even if they agree to back Mr Sangma, he is still short of the 50% mark.
Nitish Kumar and his party, the JD(U) partner with the BJP in the Bihar government, and in the NDA coalition that is led by the BJP. Mr Kumar has conveyed that elected representatives of his party will vote for Mr Mukherjee. The Shiv Sena has declared the same intent. The BJP denied that this exposes a widening chasm within the NDA."We are a very strong, very mature alliance," said Ms Swaraj." We will accept that we could not find consensus on this one issue, but we have disagreed before on some topics and managed to stay together without any problem."
Yesterday, Mr Sangma resigned from the party he had co-founded, the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP), because it is a member of the UPA and therefore wanted Mr Sangma to drop out of the presidential race. Sharad Pawar, who heads the NCP, has pledged his support to Mr Mukherjee. Mr Sangma's daughter, Agatha, is a junior minister in the government. She has been warned hat if she campaigns for her father, she could lose her portfolio.