Mumbai: The Shiv Sena, BJP ally at the Centre and in Maharashtra, today indicated it may not support the NDA candidate during voting in the Presidential election. The party, which had floated the name of Mohan Bhagwat, the chief of the BJP's ideological mentor Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, for President, said it would continue to press for his candidature. Mr Bhagwat has already said he is not interested and the BJP has also nixed the idea.
The Sena has 18 parliamentarians and 63 legislators. Even counting Sena's support the NDA will fall short of 25,000 votes. The total strength of the Electoral College - which comprises 776 parliamentarians and 4,120 legislators -- is 10,98,882 votes and the halfway mark is at 5,49,442 votes.
But Sena, the BJP's oldest ally, had backed UPA candidate Pranab Mukherjee in 2012 presidential election, even though PA Sangma was the BJP candidate. In the election before that, in 2007, the party voted for UPA candidate Pratibha Patil instead of NDA's presidential candidate Bhairon Singh Shekhawat.
"We may take an independent stand over casting our vote in the upcoming Presidential election. Time and again, we have reiterated that we do not find anyone other than Mohan Bhagwat more capable of fulfilling the Hindu Rashtra (nation) dream," Sena spokesperson Sanjay Raut was quoted as saying by news agency Press Trust of India. The party, he added, would continue to suggest Mr Bhagwat's name till the end.
While the Sena had acted more like an in-house opposition for the BJP, differing over a wide range of issues, party chief Uddhav Thackeray had recently signalled a warmth in ties.
After a meeting with Prime Minister Narendra Modi in April, Mr Thackeray had referred to him as an "elder brother".
Recently, however, Mr Thackeray had expressed its reservation about accepting PM Modi's leadership for the 2019 elections. Senior party leader Ramjas Kadam hit out at the Prime Minister after mutilated bodies of two soldiers were recovered at the Line of Control in Jammu and Kashmir. The Prime Minister, Mr Kadam said, should focus "more on security and less on elections".