The BJP may have rejected Pranab Mukherjee for President of India, but a top source has told NDTV that the Left is willing to support the Finance Minister's candidature. The elections for the President will be held in July after Pratibha Patil's five-year term in Rashtrapati Bhawan expires.
The Congress has begun discussing its potential candidates with its partners in the UPA coalition. It is keen on fielding either Mr Mukherjee or Hamid Ansari, who is currently the vice-President. Left sources say they will "think about" whether to support Mr Ansari.
The BJP, which leads the NDA alliance, has meanwhile encountered an upset ally. Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar is reportedly upset with the BJP's announcement that Mr Ansari is not an acceptable candidate. (Nitish Kumar disagrees with BJP over Hamid Ansari for President)
Mr Kumar's Janata Dal (United) runs the government in Bihar with the BJP. Yesterday, Sushma Swaraj, a senior BJP leader, said that her party will not support any Congress leader including Mr Mukherjee. She also said that Mr Ansari does not have the stature to serve as President. Mr Kumar, who enjoys the confidence of the large Muslim population of Bihar, reportedly wanted to back Mr Ansari who belongs to the minority community.
"What Sushma Swaraj has said may be BJP's opinion. We are not involved in any discussions at the moment," said JD(U) leader Sharad Yadav.
BJP's Rajiv Pratap Rudy also played down the controversy. He said Mrs Swaraj's statement was made from the BJP platform and not the NDA. He also said Yadav was only replying to questions by media. "There is no rift whatsoever between BJP and JD(U). It (rift) is mere speculation and interpretation which is uncalled for", he said there has been no no discussion within NDA on the issue.
The BJP has said that it will not support any candidate selected by the Congress because it sees the presidential election as a chance to test the Congress' strength ahead of the next general election in 2014. The BJP said it will consider supporting former president APJ Abdul Kalam if he receives the endorsement of the Samajwadi Party. Because the presidential election is based on proportional representation and gives equal weight to MPs and members of state legislative assemblies. (Poll: Who will be India's next President)
The Samajwadi Party, headed by Mulayam Singh Yadav, won the UP elections recently with a huge majority, giving it a large say in deciding who becomes the next President of India. The UPA has over 40 per cent of the total votes in the electoral college while the NDA has less than 30 per cent. Neither coalition can elect a presidential candidate on its own strength.
Kamal Farooqui of the Samajwadi Party said today that while Mr Kalam remains a good choice, his party is also considering support for Chief Election Commissioner SY Quraishi. "My party is discussing name. We will come out with a name very soon... the non-NDA parties are in support of a Muslim candidate, and as BJP is for APJ Abdul Kalam, they may also support if a good Muslim candidate is pitched," said Mr Farooqui in a television interview.